Work at height

11 August 2022

Work at height can pose a risk of serious injury from falls. Commonly, these involve the use of ladders and stepladders or falling through fragile materials.

Sometimes these can result in injuries that can be permanently disabling.

Work at height and health and safety law

‘Work at height’ is any work in any place (including a place at or below ground level) from which a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.

If you are an employer or you control work at height done by others, you may need to:

  • check that this work is properly organised and planned
  • make sure that those completing the work are competent (or supervised by someone who is)
  • take certain precautions to avoid risk from work at height
  • ensure that work equipment is suitable for the task in hand
  • avoid risks from fragile surfaces and falling objects
  • arrange for certain work equipment and places of work at height to be inspected periodically.

Additional legal requirements might also apply in some circumstances (e.g. where work equipment – such as a ladder – is used).

Generally, if someone is injured you may need to show that you have met your duty of care.

Working at height: precautions you can take

Typical precautions include:

  • avoiding the need for work at height in the first place (say, completing it from ground level)
  • using existing places at height to work from where these are suitable
  • using suitable access equipment depending upon the nature and duration of the work
  • providing adequate edge protection to working platforms and access routes at height
  • using personal fall protection (e.g. harnesses)
  • using ladders only where the risk is low and the work is of short duration
  • providing safe access to places of work at height
  • making sure access equipment is properly used
  • avoiding the need for work on or near fragile surfaces
  • using suitable access equipment near fragile surfaces
  • preventing materials or objects from falling
  • taking suitable precautions if work is required near overhead services and/or equipment
  • providing information and training on the safe use of access equipment
  • making sure no work at height is carried out when there are adverse weather conditions
  • making sure access equipment is periodically inspected and is properly maintained.

Want to know more?

For more information about work at height, why not download our guide.