Working at heights and control

The working at heights regulations affect approximately 3 million workers for whom working at height is essential to their activities. Among other measures, the height of guard rails on scaffolds is increased  by 40 mm to 950 mm, thus recognising that the averaged height of workers has increased over the last 40 years. The design of construction and demolition projects can also reduce health and safety hazards and accident rates.

A study of accident data on falls from height over the 5-year period by HSE emphasised the importance of building design in the elimination of work at height hazards. 

For buildings, factories, warehouses, offices, public buildings, retail premises, etc sufficient dimensions for guard rails or similar barriers will be achieved by complying with the Building Regulations – which require guard rails to be 1100 mm.

To protect workers at height from significant injury, the Work at Heights Regulations gives the following hierarchy of control.

  • Avoid working at heights if at all possible
  • Use an existing safe place of work 
  • Provide work equipment to prevent falls
  • Mitigate distance and consequences of a fall
  • Instruction, training and supervision  
Working at heights

The Work at Height Regulations

The Work at Height Regulations have no minimum height requirement for work at height. They include all work activities where there is a need to control a risk of falling a distance liable to cause personal injury. This is regardless of the work equipment being used, the duration of the work at height involved or the height at which the work is performed. They include access to and egress from a place of work. They would therefore include:

  • working on a scaffolding or from a mobile elevating work platform 
  • sheeting a lorry or dipping a road tanker
  • working on the top of a container in docks or on a ship or storage area
  • tree surgery and other forestry work at height 
  • using cradles or rope for access to a building or other structures like a ship under repair
  • climbing permanent structures like a gantry or telephone pole
  • working near an excavation area or cellar opening if a person could fall into and be injured
  • work on staging or trestles, for example for filming or events
  • using man-riding harnesses in ship repair, or offshore or steeple jack work
  • work carried out at a private house by a person employed for the purpose, for example a painter and decorator.

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