Working at Height Safety

Published: 16 May 2023

A tragic incident whereby a teenage farmworker suffered serious injuries after falling 20 feet through a roof has once again highlighted the need for robust working at height procedures.

The 18-year-old was clearing gutters on a shed roof before it gave-way, which ultimately led the victim to rupturing his spleen and liver, as well as fracturing several vertebrae. The dairy farm was subsequently fined over £60,000.

HSE Inspectors concluded that the company failed to control the risk of falls, failed to adequately assess the risks and did not have a safe system of work. Wider failings were also found in relation to training, supervision, instruction and information.

Work at height means work in any place, where if there are no precautions in place a person could fall a distance to cause personal injury. Here are a few tips on how to keep you and your employees safe when working at height.

  • Planning - Consider the height of access and egress to complete the task, how long the task will take, and the surface/ area being worked on.
  • Avoid - Can working at height be avoided altogether to mitigate the risks? If it cannot, use the right type of equipment to minimise fall distances and consequences. Are you also ensuring that unnecessary tasks in relation to the project are not being undertaken at height?
  • Supervision - Are workers adequately supervised and managed? Are levels of training and experience suitable?
  • Competence - Are those involved in any activity including organisation, planning and supervision competent and trained to do so?
  • Equipment - Can collective protection be used to protect those engaging in activity? This may include guard rails, scaffolding and lifts rather than personal protective equipment which relies on the user for it to be effective. Is the equipment suitable and sufficient for the task?
  • Weather - How do the weather condition compromise the safe management and practice of working at height?
  • Emergencies - Are provisions in place in case of an emergency or rescue operation?

For in depth bespoke advice in relation to working at height please contact us