This talk discusses what you need to think about and do, before and while carrying out work at height.


    Working at height is defined as ‘any place where a fall from could result in injury’, This includes working beside open excavations.

    Around half of all deaths on construction sites are due to falls from height, therefore all work at height must be properly planned.


  • Incorrect selection or use of access equipment for the particular task being undertaken is one of the biggest causes of falls from height.
  • You should never use the wrong piece of equipment just because it is all you have available.
  • Adverse weather conditions (wet, windy or icy weather), should be anticipated and suitable precautions taken.
  • Excess material on a working platform – this can make the platform unstable and access difficult.
  • Do not allow waste to build-up. Use a chute or lower materials properly

    All work at height must be avoided where possible.

    If work at height cannot be avoided, a collective system to prevent falling should be used e.g. MEWP, mobile tower scaffold or fixed scaffolding.

    The most suitable and correct access equipment must be provided for the task.

    Ensure that you have the right skills, knowledge, training and experience for the task.

    Ensure you have received the correct information, instruction and training on the safe.

    Use of the specific access equipment you will use, so that the work at height can be carried out safely.

    All working at height must be carried out as per any safe system of work provided.

    All access equipment provided must be inspected at specified intervals and before use, and maintained as required.

    Fall prevention (such as edge protection systems, barriers and perimeter scaffolds) should be installed to prevent the risk of materials or persons falling.

    The consequences of a fall should be reduced by the use of safety netting of fall arrest harness systems.

    Ladders and stepladders should only be used for light work of a short duration and where there is a low risk of falling.

    Access ladders must extend to at least one metre above the stepping-off point, be secured, and rest and the correct angle (one unit out to four units up).


    A safe means of access to the roof must be provided (such as a temporary staircase or fixed ladder with a gate).

    Fragile surfaces must be identified with signs e.g. cement roof sheets and skylights.

    Measures should be taken to stop you falling through any fragile surface.

    A safe system of work must be devised and used where the roof could be liable to collapse under a person’s weight, e.g. a temporary platform.

    If edge protection or a soft-landing system cannot be used, it may be necessary to use a harness and lanyard. In this case, a secure, designed anchor point and training will be necessary.

    Openings must have a cover or guard; if removed for any reason, replace as soon as it is practicable.

    Where bitumen boilers are in use, a drip tray and fire extinguisher are required.

    QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF – (Click on the question to reveal the answer)

    Q1. What is the definition of Working at Height?
    Work 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
  • Work at height does not include a slip or a trip on the level, as a fall from height has to involve a fall from one level to a lower level, nor does it include walking up and down a permanent staircase in a building.

    Q2. What should be identified before any work at height begins?
    Before working at height you must work through these simple steps:

  • Avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so;
  • Where work at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment;
  • Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated.
  • You should:

  • Do as much work as possible from the ground;
  • Ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height;
  • Ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly;
  • Make sure you don’t overload or overreach when working at height;
  • Take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces;
  • Provide protection from falling objects;
  • Consider your emergency evacuation and rescue procedures.
  • Q3. Above what height must edge protection, toe-boards and guard rails be erected?
    For non-construction work, there are no prescriptive dimensions.
    However, guard rails, toe boards, barriers and other collective means of protection should be of sufficient dimension to ensure a person cannot fall through or over them.
    In the absence of any standards, HSE operational guidance suggests that guard rail heights in non-construction activities should be a minimum of 950 mm.
    Any protection below this height should be justified on the basis of a risk assessment.
    For buildings, factories, warehouses, offices, public buildings, retail premises etc, sufficient dimensions for guard rails or similar barriers will be achieved by complying with the Building Regulations – which require guard rails to be 1100 mm.
    For plant, machinery, equipment etc, sufficient dimensions will be achieved by compliance with any relevant EN standard. For example, BS EN 14122-3:2013 (covering the safety of machinery access) specifies a top guard rail of 1100 mm; while the essential health and safety requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 specify that such equipment is ‘designed and constructed to avoid falls’.
    Q4. How far should ladders extend above a stepping-off point?
  • No ladder must extend beyond 9m high without a rest place or landing point.
  • Any landing place must be safe with suitable edge protection to prevent falls.
  • All ladders must extend 1m above the stepping off point to provide suitable handhold.
  • Have any questions for me?

Acknowledgement Slip

First Name
Phone Number
Email Address
Company Division
Do You Have Any Questions? *