The Myths and Facts Around the Work At Heights Regulations – UK
The Work at Height Regulations were introduced into the UK on 6 April 2005 and subsequently amended on the same date in April 2007.
Initially focussed on protecting workers at a height who could be at risk from possible personal injury, the Health and Safety laws were then extended to support instructors and leaders in recreational activities.
These guidelines were not brought into place to stop the use of ladders, a myth that is still upheld by so many today, but do make an employer question whether a different type of equipment would be more appropriate.
The guidelines intend that all employers put into place practices and processes to ensure that reasonable care is taken to prevent anybody working at a height incurring potential harm.
Covering all levels of employee and manager, it doesn’t matter in what capacity you have to work at height, or for how long, the law and the protection remains the same.
How High Is High?
The height covered by these regulations are basically any distance were falling could cause damage. A height may not be seen as high for you, but if there is the potential to cause personal harm from falling, then that is considered ‘height’.
Height has no relation to ground level, if you are working underground, over ground or on a rig, if someone could fall and sustain an injury then this regulation applies.
Further precautions are required for anyone working above 2m or when the risk is increased by the surrounding environment when further equipment and precautions must be taken.
What Is Work?
You don’t have to be building something or even doing something in your usual job specification to be working. If an individual is required by someone who has control over them to move around in an area other than a staircase where falling could cause injury or death then it is considered work.
This does have to be within the working day and does not include travel to and from work or any form of business travel.
What is Required?
Ultimately an employer should take reasonable care to ensure that all precautions are in place to prevent an accident occurring due to a fall.
This includes ensuring the appropriate safety equipment is in place and regularly checked as well as reducing or removing the height all together when at all possible.
When considering asking an employee to work at height, an employer should consider the weather conditions, the appropriate planning of the task and ensure that the person selected is prepared both in terms of training and ability.
The area should be free from hazards wherever possible and the appropriate precautions should be taken to protect against falling objects or debris.
If the worst does happen, then the employer should also have put in place the procedures to cope with the consequences of the fall occurring.
When is a Risk Assessment Necessary?
Before any new working activity at height starts, a risk assessment should be carried out so that everyone is aware of the precautions that need to be taken and the equipment that is required.
A risk assessment is not a test to say whether an action is risky, it is a procedure to ensure that all necessary precautions are put in place to ensure the work is carried out as safely as possible. This includes the environment that the work is going to be carried out in, the actual work that has to be carried out, the condition of the individuals that will carry out the activity required and the structure they will be working on.
Ultimately, the work at height regulations are not aimed at stopping work or causing unnecessary paperwork, they are put in place to stop death or serious accidents whenever an employee is at work.
They encourage every individual associated with a working at height procedure to think before they act:
1. Can the height be reduced or avoided completely
2. If the height cannot be avoided, can equipment be put in place to prevent a possible fall occurring.
3. If the risk cannot be eliminated, has everything possible been done to ensure that a fall does not occur while all necessary procedures are in place to cope should the worst happen.
The content was created by Karl Young on behalf of Loxam Access a leading lifting equipment supplier with more than 40 years of experience and 540 branches worldwide.