Working at height rules – are they just needless red tape?

Workers up scafolding

Last year more people died as a result of falling from height accidents than any other kind of accident.

An HSE report confirmed there were 35 deaths in 2020/21 – this also accounted for 25% of all worker fatalities.

That’s 35 families left without loved one and this one fact alone should prove that working at height is an inherently dangerous action.

But that danger can be counteracted – even removed – if employers follow key health and safety guidelines.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 is an approved code of practice that safeguards workers from known risk of a fall like: 

  • Ladders not being footed properly
  • The wrong equipment being used
  • Safety equipment not being properly maintained
  • No training or directions on how to use safety equipment
  • No safety equipment being used at all
  • Unsafe weather conditions

In addition, organisations engaged with work at height need to ensure that people are protected against falling objects.

Who has obligations under the work at height regulations?

Every employer. 

The regulations even apply to non-direct employers. 

For example, imagine you are a labourer employed by an agency. The agency sends you to work at a construction site. The agency does not have control of what the site makes you do every day so it is up to the site bosses to ensure your safety. Similarly, if you are a construction worker engaged under the Construction Industry Scheme where a company takes 20% from your wages but you are technically self-employed, the organisation who is directing your day to day job will be required to keep you safe.

How can employers keep people safe while working at work?

The first thing an organisation should do is actually to check if working at height can be avoided. If it can be, then it should be. But if a worker needs to go up, then there are certain things an employer needs to do as part of a risk assessment:

  • They must ensure all work at height is properly planned and organised
  • Ensure those involved in work at height are competent
  • Ensure the risks from work at height are assessed and appropriate work equipment, including personal protective equipment is used
  • That risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are appropriately monitored and managed 
  • That equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained

Companies cannot expect their workers to fend for themselves. They cannot simply assume a worker will be familiar with working at height.

They have a duty of care to protect the worker at all times.

But falls from height do not just relate to those who work with ladders, scaffolding and cherry pickers.

Believe it or not, you can still be classed as working at height even if you are at floor level. For example, if you fall into a hole or opening on ground level then this would still be classed as a fall from height.

What to do if you’ve had a fall from height

The important thing to remember is that employers are legally obligated to keep you safe while at work. This means if you’ve suffered an injury because your employer fails in their obligation then you are entitled to make a fall at height claim to recover fair damages.

There are time limits on how long you have to bring a claim forward which is typically three years from the date of the fall at work accident. 

As part of any accident at work claim, our solicitors will review any financial losses and the long term impact of your injuries to determine the right level of compensation, and this is done on a no win no fee basis

The information contained on our workplace accidents advice section will help guide you further.