At Leach's we are often asked about Working at Height Regulations and what are the implications and considerations for safety managers, safety executives and business owners (many of whom are scaffolders)? This post asks important questions and the responses will equip you with the knowledge you need to confidently stay informed, legal & safe.
What is the main reason for working at height regulations?
To minimise the risk of injury whilst working at height. It is not there to stop you working at height but rather to make sure all practical steps are taken to avoid injury whilst working at height.
Yes. Not only can you be fined but you can also be imprisoned depending upon the severity of the offence. There are many cases where both employees and senior executives have been held responsible, taken to court, fined and/or imprisoned.
Who is responsible for implementing working at height?
It is the responsibility of the employer or the person/employee who controls work at height to make sure the working at height regulations are upheld (a competent person as stated in the regulation).
What is the regulation definition of working at height?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), working at height can cover a multitude of working environments but they all have a common definition. Working at height is work that takes place in any situation where a person could fall a distance that could cause injury. The risk of injury is the primary reason for the proper precautions having to be taken.
Typical examples are; working on a ladder or flat roof, working on fragile surface, working near a hole in the ground or an opening in a floor. It does not cover staircases (unless of course you are up a ladder on a staircase).
What are the practical steps to take to make sure we are working within the working at height regulations?
- Employers and those in control of working at height must make sure that all work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people.
- Risks must be assessed and if there is no alternative but to work at height you must seek appropriate measures to minimise the risk.
- If it is not feasible to eliminate the risk by using a collective system then a personal protective equipment system must be used, be it for restraint or fall arrest purposes.
- Be aware of your working environment at all times (as it will change).
- Use the right type of equipment for the specific task in hand.
- Make sure the equipment is regularly maintained and checked.
- Have an emergency evacuation and rescue plan that is understood by everybody.
What is meant by competent person?
It is up to you to prove that a person of responsibility is competent, invariably through the appropriate training and experience. It is good practice for both the trainer and trainee to note and sign off all training.
- Is the general working environment safe e.g. how sound is the roof?
- Is there likely to be any adverse weather conditions on site?
- How can I stop objects from falling on the site e.g. tethering tools?
- If the nature of the work means that objects will fall (no matter what measures I might take)
- How can I cut the risk e.g. netting?
- What materials and objects are on site and can they be stored safely?
- What do we do if we have an emergency or rescue situation?
- How do we inform the workers of the emergency & rescue plan?
- What training do the workers require?
What do I need to consider about equipment used when working at height?
- Confirm the equipment used is appropriate for the task in hand. If in doubt ask an informed third party.
- Make sure it is being used or installed correctly.
- Make sure the equipment is regularly inspected and any failures are discarded, rectified or repaired.
- Keep records of inspections.
What work elements are particularly noted as increasing risks for working at height?
There are certain workplace elements that will increase the risks associated with working at height, and as such, special attention should be paid in these conditions.
Ladders and stepladders can be used for working at height, but should only be used if there is no justifiable reason to use another piece of equipment. The risk of using a ladder or stepladder should be assessed prior to their usage. If the ladder or stepladder is due to be used for a prolonged period of time, an alternative may be more suitable. Alternative options include mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs), order pickers (often referred to as chariots) and scaffolding.
Guard rails on working platforms must meet the specifications set out by the Health and Safety Executive. Mobile elevated work platforms or mobile scaffolding should be carefully assessed by a competent person before being used.
It is a requirement of the Work at Height Regulations that unless a scaffold is assembled to a generally recognised standard configuration, e.g. NASC Technical Guidance TG20 for tube and fitting scaffolds or similar guidance from manufacturers of system scaffolds, the scaffold should be designed by bespoke calculation, by a competent person, to ensure it will have adequate strength, rigidity and stability while it is erected, used and dismantled.
Is there any specific advice on erecting scaffolding?
Yes. All scaffolding must be erected, dismantled and altered in a safe manner. This is achieved by following the guidance provided by the NASC in document SG4 ‘Preventing falls in scaffolding’ for tube and fitting scaffolds or by following similar guidance provided by the manufacturers of system scaffolding. A full checklist can be found by clicking here.
What should you do if you need further advice for working at height and working at height regulations?
The above blog is not exhaustive, its aim is to cover the main points of the regulation and to get you thinking about your own organisation/team and how to best implement the working at height regulations. For more detailed information on working at height regulation please click the links below. Alternatively if you have a requirement for equipment advice or have any further questions please contact us on email@example.com or 01432 346800.
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