Working safely at height

According to the Health and Safety Executive working at height means: “work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you:

     work above ground/floor level

     could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or

     could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground”

A number of obvious safety risks are involved with working at height, which is why you need to be prepared.


If you are an employer, or in control of any work done at height, regulations apply to you.

This means you must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. This includes using the right type of equipment and taking responsibility for the workers who’re involved.

It is your responsibility to ensure each worker is ‘competent’ enough to work at height, meaning they have the sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task. But importantly, before any job, you must assess the risks. We’d suggest taking a look at HSE for advice on risk assessment.

According to HSE, to meet Work at Height Regulations (2005) you must ensure:

     All work is properly planned and organised

     Workers involved with tasks at height are competent

     Risks from the work are assessed

     Appropriate work equipment is selected and used

     Risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are completely managed

     Equipment used for height is properly inspected and maintained


Before starting any work at height you need to consider measures that will protect everyone at risk. You should take a sensible approach when considering precautions for work at height. There are a number of factors to consider, including the height of the task and the condition of the surface being worked on. This will help you get an idea for the necessary safety precautions and equipment.

Safety precautions might include equipment like a permanent or temporary guard rail. You’ll also want to ensure that everyone’s safety harnesses are being put on properly.

You will need to assess potential risks, consider emergency evacuation procedures and take account of weather conditions that could compromise safety. We’d also suggest storing materials and objects somewhere they won’t cause injury if disturbed.

Making the right decision

When it’s possible to avoid work at a height, do so. When working at height can’t be avoided, do all you can to prevent falls and injuries – including using the right type of protective equipment.

Other dos and don’ts

You should try to do as much work from the ground as possible. Ensure all workers can get safely to and from where they need to work. It’s also very important that all equipment being used is suitable, meaning they need to be stable and strong enough for the job.

Consider the equipment and materials being carried beforehand to ensure you don’t overload ladders. Also, be sensible – don’t overreach on ladders.

For more information on working at height take a look at HSE’s working at height index. Here at SAMS Ltd we offer a number of health and safety courses that will help improve your risk assessment and management skills. We can also offer bespoke working at height courses to ensure that you and your employees are well prepared for working at heights. For more information about our bespoke services give us a call on 01843 821 406 or 01304 249699, or visit our Contact page.