Working at Height

Page under review

These regulations do not ban ladders but require consideration to be given to their use. They require that ladders should only be considered where the use of other more suitable work equipment is not appropriate, such a towers scaffolds, podium steps or temporary stairs. Where ladders and stepladders are used they should only be used as a work place for light work of short duration.

The Work at Height Regulations have changed the meaning of working platforms, which have traditionally been understood to mean a fully-boarded platform with handrails and toe boards. A working platform can now be virtually any surface from which work is carried out, such as a roof, floor, platform on a scaffold, a MEWP, the treads of a stepladder.

The Work at Height Regulations require the risk of a fall to be prevented wherever a fall is liable to cause personal injury. This means that for any height where there is a risk of a fall causing personal injury then measures should be taken to prevent injury. The old division between low and high falls has gone. The duty is to prevent falls. It is worth noting that there are almost as many low-fall injuries as high-fall injuries.

The Work at Height Regulations require you to take a sensible risk-based approach to preventing falls. Where it is reasonably practicable to take precautions to prevent a fall, steps should be taken to do so. However it is essential that a sensible and pragmatic approach is taken when addressing low falls, so precautions should only be taken when the scope and duration of the work presents a risk of injury. If the risk is trivial, it is not reasonably practical to take precautions, then no action needs to be taken apart from training and instruction.

When selecting work equipment, the expectation is that guardrails and working platforms will be used. These are always the preferred measures to protect from falls unless a risk assessment clearly identifies other equipment as providing better protection given the nature and duration of the task.

A brief guide to the regulations is at:

HSE Guide to Working at Height Regulations

HSE Guidance on the Safe use of Ladders

For more detail, please visit the HSE web pages on working at height

HSE Work at Height