Work at Height Regulations 2005

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 apply to all work-related activities where there is a risk of an employee being injured in a fall from height in the workplace.

The Regulations impose duties on employers to manage the risks associated with working at height and to take all 'reasonable' precautions to prevent falls and injuries following a fall.

What is "working at height"?

"Work at height" means working at any height where, if the worker falls, there is a risk of injury. Examples include:

  • Working on a ladder
  • Working on a scaffold
  • Working on a roof
  • Working on a loading platform
  • Working at ground level alongside a pit, where there is a risk of falling below ground level
  • Climbing a stepladder, even one that is just a short distance from the ground.

What do the Regulations say?

As a primary duty, employers must ensure that work is carried out from the ground wherever possible, thus avoiding a "work at height" scenario. Using extendable tools is a common solution to achieve this goal.

If work at height cannot be avoided, then employers must do all that is practicable to prevent a fall, for example, by providing edge protection and barriers, and to mitigate the risk of injury by reducing the potential distance and impact of a fall.    

Some of the steps an employer might take include:

  • Using the right equipment for the job (with reference to the PPE at Work Regulations)
  • Ensuring workers can get safely to and from the work-at-height location
  • Ensuring ladders, scaffold towers and other equipment is stable and strong enough for the job and properly maintained
  • Making sure that only "competent" people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience are employed to perform the at-height task
  • Taking account of weather conditions that could compromise safety
  • Training workers on safe procedures to ensure they do not overreach or overload when working at height
  • Using personal protective equipment such as soft landing systems or a safety harness connected to a suitable anchor point.

There is a misconception that ladders are banned under the Regulations. This is not the case. In many cases, a ladder may be the right equipment for the job especially for low-risk, short-duration work.

Common sense should prevail. Employers have a duty to assess the risks and design the work task accordingly.

What must employees do?

Employees have a general duty to look after their own health and safety and follow the instruction given by their employer. With regard to working at height, employees must:

  • Report any safety hazard to their employer
  • Use the equipment and safety devices supplied
  • Carry out the work task in accordance with any training and instructions provided.

An employee who refuses to follow safety protocols may not be able to claim full compensation for his injuries if he falls as a result of his own contributory negligence.

The Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007

The Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations came into force in April 2007.

They apply to anyone who works at height while providing instruction or leadership to one or more persons in caving or climbing by way of sport, recreation, team building or similar activities.

Since 2007, such persons must comply with the 2005 Work at Height Regulations in full.

Making an injury claim

If your employer has breached the Regulations, and you have been injured as a result of a breach, you may be entitled to make a claim for your work accident.

Following changes to the law in October 2013, your solicitor will need to demonstrate not only that your employer breached the Regulations, but that the employer failed to take 'reasonable' steps to ensure your safety.