Assessing all work at height

What you need to do

What you need to do 

The law requires that employers and self-employed contractors assess the risk from work at height and go on to organise and plan the work so it is carried out safely.

Try avoiding work at height, if you can.  You must otherwise prevent or arrest a fall and injury if work at height is necessary.

Instruct and train your workforce in the precautions needed.  Method statements are widely used in the construction industry to help manage the work and communicate what is required to all those involved.

Key issues for all work at height are:

  • Risk assessment
  • Precautions required
  • Method statements

Work at height is the biggest single cause of fatal and serious injury in the construction industry, particularly on smaller projects.

Over 60% of deaths during work at height involve falls:

  • From ladders, scaffolds, working platforms and roof edges; and
  • Through fragile roofs or roof-lights.

Risk assessment

Employers and self-employed contractors must:

  • Assess the risks;
  • Decide on the precautions required;
  • Record the significant findings; and
  • Review the assessment as necessary.

Do not overcomplicate the process.  For many firms your work at height risks will be well known and the necessary control measure easy to apply.

Follow the HSE Controlling the risks in the workplace

Precautions require

The law on work at height requires that you take account of your risk assess that you take account of your risk assessment in organising and planning work and identifying the precautions required.  Your objective is to make sure work at height is properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

The approaches you can adopt for work at height are to:

  • Avoid work at height where it reasonable practicable to do so, eg by assembly at ground level and:
  • Prevent any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury eg by using a scaffold platform with double guard-rail and toeboards; and
  • Arrest a fall with equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, eg safety nets, where work at height cannot be avoided or the fall prevented.

Method statements

A method statement is a useful way of recording the hazards involved in specific work at height tasks and communicating the risk and precautions required to all those involved in the work.  The statement need be no longer than necessary to achieve these objectives effectively.

The method statement should be clear and illustrated by simple sketches where necessary.  Avoid ambiguities or generalisations, which could lead to confusion.  Statements are for the benefit of those carrying out the work and their immediate supervisors and should not be overcomplicated.

Equipment needed for safe working should be clearly identified and available before work starts.  Workers should know what to do if the work method needs to be changed.