Height safety precautions - Height - Healthy Working Lives

Height

Precautions you should take to protect employees working at height

​​​​​​​​​​​The main safety concerns with working at height are people or objects falling and causing serious injury and damage.

Use the links below to find information on the common hazards when working at height, how to assess them, precautions you can take with equipment and your legal duties.

  1. Common height related hazards
  2. Height safety precautions
  3. Height safety legislation

2. Height safety precautions

Where possible, when working at height​ you should make sure the area below is cordoned off.

​In all cases of working at height​, ensure that

  • the equipment used is suitable for the job and is maintained and in good condition
  • workers are competent and trained to use the equipment and carry out the job safely
  • all workers understand the job and the control measures in place to ensure their safety.

More complex jobs may be accompanied by a detailed method statement for the activity. A permit to work system can be used to govern the duration of the work at height.

Ladders

Ladders are acceptable only for access or work of short duration. They should be

  • erected at the correct angle (4 up to 1 out)
  • secured, preferably at the top, or footed
  • positioned close to the work to avoid over-reaching
  • ​protected at the base to stop vehicles or pedestrians bumping into them.

Stepladders

Stepladders should

  • be spread to their full extent and locked off
  • only have one person on the ladder at any one time
  • be appropriate and of the correct grade for the intended use
  • not have the top tread, tool shelf or rear of the steps used as a foot support.

Mobile elevated platforms

When using mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPS) you should

  • wear a safety harnesses
  • only use the platform on level, firm ground
  • work with a trained operator at ground level
  • only use the equipment with outriggers and stabilisers
  • keep the platform within safe working limits and radius, taking account of wind speeds, beams, hanging obstructions and power cables.

Scaffolding

Tower scaffolds should be erected and periodically inspected by a competent person.

Where a person might fall 2 metres or more, the scaffolding must be inspected by a competent person, a record maintained and further inspection at least weekly thereafter.

A tagging system is a useful way to inform workers that these inspections are taking place.

A risk assessment ​may find the need for more frequent inspections. They may also be required after bad weather and always after any modification

Additionally tower scaffolds should

  • have ladder access to the working platform
  • use outriggers or stabilisers if above 2.5 m high
  • have stabilisers deployed to meet the correct height to base ratio
  • have a height to base dimension ratio not exceeding 3 to 1 indoors, or 2.5 to 1 outdoors
  • have all casters firmly locked before use and never be moved while the tower is occupied.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has more information on tower scaffold safety.

Additional safety equipment

Additional equipment should only be considered as a last resort when no other means are reasonably practicable. These include

  • nets
  • airbags
  • ​harnesses
  • safety lines
  • other fall restraint and arrest equipment.

They should only be used and erected by trained personnel and be tested and inspected regularly.

Step-by-step guide

Use the HSE step-by-step guide to help you identify and control risks when working at height.

Visit the HSE site to use the step-by-step guide

Find out more

You may also be interested in the following from the HSE website.