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Working at height is a daily occurrence for some businesses. But as one of the leading causes of workplace injury, it’s important for employers to take it seriously.
Regulations are in place to make sure employers take all necessary precautions to minimise the risk of injury. Read on to find out what steps employers can take to protect themselves and their employees.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define working at height as a situation where “if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury”.
You’re considered working at height if:
In simple terms, if you can fall from one level to a lower level, you’re working at height. There isn’t a minimum height requirement to be deemed working at height.
But according to the Working at Height Regulations Act 2005, suitable fall protection or personal protection equipment must be worn from a height of two metres or above.
Falls from height are the leading contributor to fatal accidents in the workplace, according to HSE. This is why it's so important for employers and workers to follow the regulations.
The guidance on how to safely work at height is separated into different sections, which are covered below.
Because of the inherent risks, trying to find another way of completing a job is always the safest option. Realistically, there isn’t a way to work around it in some professions.
When working at height is unavoidable, it’s an employer’s responsibility to think about ways to prevent and minimise the risk.
A roofer, for example, can reduce the risk of falling by putting up scaffolding and safety nets.
Before you start any work, you should inspect your equipment to make sure it’s working correctly.
Ladders are commonly used in many industries and should be checked before every use to make sure they function properly.
HSE has a comprehensive guide on ladder safety that shows how to spot the signs of wear on a ladder as well as how to use one safely.
And more broadly, inspecting the condition of safety equipment like safety nets or energy-absorbing lanyards is always worthwhile.
Employers need to make sure that all work at height is carried out by competent people. This means the person performing the task needs to have the appropriate level of training and equipment to complete the task safely.
For low-risk jobs that are less than 30 minutes, basic safety instructions should be enough. For more complex jobs, like assembling scaffolding, workers may be required to have a certain level of experience or qualification to do it safely.
And for less experienced staff that may be learning on the job, making sure they’re supervised by someone with the right level of competency is important.
Assessing the risks of a job can help prevent accidents further down the line. Working at height poses a high level of risk but the risk assessment doesn’t need to be complicated.
Most risks will be known to you and your employees but it’s important to take the time to do a risk assessment as each project is unique.
When working at height you should:
As an employer, it’s your responsibility for your employees to follow the working at height regulations. But even when you take every precaution, accidents can still happen and it’s important to have the right level of cover.
It’s a legal requirement for any business with employees to have employers’ liability insurance. But due to the level of risk involved when working at height, it's worth making sure you have the right level of cover.
It’s also possible to unintentionally injure a member of the public when working at height with accidents like falling debris. In situations like this, you might find it helpful to have a public liability policy that covers your business.
Simply Business is the trusted insurer of over 800,000 customers including roofers, builders, and construction workers – run a quote with us and protect your business.
Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with six years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. Zach specialises in covering small business and landlord insurance. He has a particular interest in issues impacting the hospitality industry after spending a number of years working as a pastry chef.
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