4 Nov 2014

Working at height – An idiot’s guide to equipment safety

Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries. On average 45 people die and 3,750 major injuries occur every year in the UK whilst working at height.

The purpose of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) is to prevent death and injury from a fall from height. Work at height means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.

You will find excellent advice and guidance in the HSE’s Brief Guide to Working at Height (click here) and we touch on some of the key points below. A good starting point is with the following step-by-step Q&A’s:

There are many equipment types available to enable working at height, the most common being ladders, scaffold towers, podium steps, MEWPs (mobile elevating work platforms) and fixed scaffolding. Regardless of which method of access is chosen, one constant across all of them is the need to ensure the equipment itself is in good condition.

Work equipment, for example scaffolding, needs to be assembled or installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and in keeping with industry guidelines. Where the safety of the work equipment depends on how it has been installed or assembled, an employer should ensure it is not used until it has been inspected in that position by a competent person.

A competent person is someone who has the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to manage health and safety. Guidance on appointing a competent person can be found here (link to www.hse.gov.uk/competence. )

Any equipment exposed to conditions that may cause it to deteriorate, and result in a dangerous situation, should be inspected at suitable intervals appropriate to the environment and use. Do an inspection every time something happens that may affect the safety or stability of the equipment, eg adverse weather, accidental damage.

You are required to keep a record of any inspection for types of work equipment including: working platforms (any platform used as a place of work or as a means of getting to and from work, eg a gangway) that are fixed (eg a scaffold around a building) or mobile (eg a MEWP or scaffold tower); or a ladder.

Any working platform used for construction work and from which a person could fall more than 2 metres must be inspected:
• after assembly in any position;
• after any event liable to have affected its stability;
• at intervals not exceeding seven days.

Where it is a mobile platform, a new inspection and report is not required every time it is moved to a new location on the same site.

You must also ensure that before you use any equipment, such as a MEWP, which has come from another business or rental company, it is accompanied by an indication (clear to everyone involved) when the last thorough examination has been carried out.

What must employees do?
Employees have general legal duties to take reasonable care of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions, and to co-operate with their employer to enable their health and safety duties and requirements to be complied with.

For an employee, or those working under someone else’s control, the law says they must:
• report any safety hazard they identify to their employer;
• use the equipment and safety devices supplied or given to them properly, in accordance with any training and instructions (unless they think that would be unsafe, in which case they should seek further instructions before continuing).

The need to provide suitable equipment is detailed in The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) for which downloadable information is available here.

PUWER and WAHR tend to work hand-in-hand and Good to Go Safety can help companies comply with both sets of Regulations.

Due to the flexibility of the Good to Go Safety checklists, they allow a competent person to specify the frequency of their checks – whether this be a daily/weekly/monthly check, a 7-day check or after alterations/periods of severe weather. Indeed some equipment may only come out of storage once in a blue moon, at which point a pre-use check can be carried out.

Each checklist is specific to the equipment being used. So whether it be a ladder, tower or MEWP you will follow a step-by-step walk-around to check safety critical components before placing the completed checklist inside a tag on the equipment for everyone to see the findings and current status.

Each completed checklist is created in duplicate to ensure that findings are not only displayed on the equipment but that a record is retained as part of your Safe Equipment Management System (SEMS) which can prove invaluable in the event of an accident investigation. By having evidence of completed equipment checks, documented dates, signatures and findings it shows that you have taken appropriate steps to minimise the potential for equipment failure. More importantly, it might help save someone’s life in the process.

Visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk for your safe equipment management systems.

To end with we would like to remind companies using ladders for work at height operations that now is a perfect time to put inspection processes in place as the Ladder Association is currently running it’s Ladder Exchange Initiative until the end of December, allowing you to hand in any ‘dodgy’ ladders for a discounted new ladder – visit www.ladderexchange.org.uk for more information.

I would also recommend anyone that works at height or is responsible for those that do so, to watch this video

as Jason Ankler talks candidly about his experience of falling from a ladder and the ramifications it had for him, his family and colleagues. If this story doesn’t bring home the importance of working safely at height then I fear nothing will.


  1. Awesome safety tips for working in heights. One of the jobs I was on had me working on the roof of a tall building. It was so high up there, but they had a lot of safety measures in place, so I knew I was safe while working. Thanks for the great post. http://www.vhss.com.au

  2. Work properly and safe is essential in all works, thanks for all the help you bring here, it's very useful


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