We recently discussed how working from height accounts for 11% of safety incidents on public works, according to a report from PBC today. 

Not only this, statistics from HSE show that 39 deaths in 2014 involved falls from height. Of course, health and safety should always be treated seriously, but the added risk of working from height also needs to be given the proper consideration.

This short guide aims to give you the low-down on the law regarding working at height and information that you can use to create an appropriate policy, as well as practical advice.

Under the Working at Height Regulations 2005, you must ensure –

  • 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
  • equipment for work at height is properly inspected and maintained

With all that in mind, here are some dos and don’ts for working from height.


  • make sure the surface/access equipment is stable and strong enough to support the worker’s weight plus any equipment. Any edge protection should be wide enough and strong enough to prevent a fall
  • complete as much of the work as possible from the ground or partly from the ground
  • take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces, to prevent a fall and also minimise the potential injury that could be caused by a fall
  • ensure workers can reach the height they will be working from safely, and also have in place proper rescue procedures
  • make sure everyone involved is competent to do the work they are responsible for, including people involved at the planning stage
  • choose the most appropriate equipment for the type of work being done
  • provide protection from falling objects
  • make sure equipment used for work at height is well maintained and inspected regularly


  • overload a ladder’s maximum weight
  • overreach on ladders or stepladders – keep your belt buckle inside the stiles and both feet on the same rung
  • use a ladder or stepladder for heavy work, or if the work will take over 30 minutes to finish
  • use ladders if workers cannot maintain three points of contact
  • let anyone who is not competent (someone who doesn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job) carry out work at height

Looking for more advice? You can find more at the HSE website. As with anything involving health and safety, proper training is crucial. If you’re unsure if any of your workers can meet the proper HSE standards for working at height, investing in a training programme is the first step you should take.

For instance, the Institute of Roofing has a free course available here.

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