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Working at Height

According to RIDDOR falls from height accounted for nearly a quarter of all  fatal injuries to workers in 2011/12. Of the all the industry classifications, construction reported the most injuries (fatal and non fatal) resulting from falls.

Working at Height is regulated by The Work at Height Regulations 2005. The Regulations apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury.

There is a simple hierarchy for managing and selecting equipment for work at height. Duty holders must:

  • avoid work at height where they can;
  • use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where they cannot avoid working at height; and
  • where they cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur.

Where the only option is to work at height these regulations place duties on employers, the self-employed, and any person that controls the work of others (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height) to ensure that:

  • all work at height is properly planned and organised;
  • those involved in work at height are competent;
  • the risks from work at height are assessed and appropriate work equipment is selected and used;
  • the risks from fragile surfaces are properly controlled; and
  • equipment for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

Although ‘competence’ is not defined in the Regulations, HSE has worked with industry to clarify what this means and recommends the definition in Appendix 8 of the Regulations, which state:

‘A competent person is a person who can demonstrate that they have sufficient professional or technical training, knowledge, actual experience, and authority to enable them to: (1) carry out their assigned duties at the level of responsibility allocated to them (2) understand any potential hazards related to the work (or equipment) under consideration (3) detect any technical defects or omissions in that work (or equipment), recognise any implications for health and safety caused by those defects or omissions, and be able to specify a remedial action to mitigate those implications’

What do the Regulations say about guard rails in respect to working platforms?

The Regulations require that, for construction work, handrails have a minimum height of 950 mm, and that any gap between the top rail and any intermediate rail should not exceed 470 mm. The Regulations also require toe boards to be suitable and sufficient (for example, a toe board of a minimum 100 mm height would be acceptable).

What are working platforms?

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 have changed the meaning of working platforms, which were traditionally seen as fully-boarded platforms with handrails and toe boards. A working platform can now be virtually any surface from which work can be carried out, such as:

  • a roof
  • a floor
  • a platform on a scaffold
  • mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs)
  • the treads of a stepladder

Do the Regulations still apply if I am working below 2 m in height?

The Regulations require steps to be taken to prevent falls from any height where there is a risk of personal injury, so far as reasonably practicable, They require a sensible risk-based approach to preventing falls and you must take reasonable precautions, for example:

  • ensuring that handrails to scaffolds and towers are provided and not deliberately removed for work below 2 m
  • using edge protection on bandstands (for bricklayers)
  • However, it is important that a sensible and pragmatic approach is taken when managing the risk of low falls. Precautions should only be taken when the scope and duration of the work presents a risk of injury. If the risk is trivial, and it is not reasonably practical to take precautions, then no action needs to be taken apart from training and instruction.

Have ladders been banned?

The Regulations do not ban the use of ladders. Ladders can be used for low-risk, short-duration work and where a risk assessment shows that other more suitable work equipment is not appropriate because of the location.

Every time you use a ladder, you should do a pre-use check beforehand to make sure it is safe for use. The benefit of conducting a pre-use check is that they provide the opportunity to pick up any immediate / serious defects before they cause an accident. A pre-use check should be carried out by:

  • the user
  • at the beginning of the working day
  • whenever something has changed, eg when the ladder is dropped or moved from a dirty area to a clean area, you should check the condition of the feet and rungs.

It is the users responsibility to:

  • Ensure that all work at height is properly planned and organised;
  • Ensure that the risks from work at height (including the risks from fragile surfaces) are assessed and appropriate work equipment is selected;
  • Ensure that the staff who operate or manage work at height are competent;
  • Check that equipment for work at height is safe to use, has been properly inspected and maintained.

As the supplier of equipment for use on site it is Togas responsibility to:

  • Ensure that any equipment delivered for hire is in safe working condition and will be stable when in use.
  • Ensure that all necessary guardrails meet with the regulations.
  • Ensure that toeboards are always provided.
  • Provide instructions on the safe use, loading and erection (where applicable).
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0’.

HSE website links.


Want to know more?

Call us today on 020 8533 5222

At TOGA Hire Centres, we take Health and Safety matters very seriously and hope that these fact sheets are of help. However, we must stress that these guidelines are not intended to be fully comprehensive instructions and the customer should, of course, be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their staff at all times.

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