Safety & Access

What Is ‘Work At Height’?

November 30th, 2018

Sometimes it can be confusing as to what  is and what isn’t considered as working at height. As a business it’s important to make sure that you fully understand these so that you can ensure that the necessary precautions can be undertaken in order to ensure that your workers don’t suffer injuries.

So what exactly is working from height? According to hse.gov.uk, you are working at height if you:

  • Work above ground/floor level
  • Could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface
  • Could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.

If a fall takes place in the workspace, it has to be from one level to another to be considered an injury from working at height. The regular use (walking up and down) of a permanent staircase is not classed as working at height.

The basic steps you should take in order reduce the likeliness of personal injury to your employees and comply with Work at Height Regulations include:

  • 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 used
  • The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed
  • The equipment used for work from height is properly inspected and maintained

That covers the basic level of working at height, however there may be further considerations depending on how you are working at height. The main platforms you’re likely to come across in the workplace are Ladders and stepladders, Scaffolding and Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs). Each of these will be discussed further in this article.

Ladders and stepladders

Before you consider using a ladder for a job, there are three key considerations you should make beforehand:

  1. How long are you required to be using the ladder.
  2. Will you be able to use the ladder safely.
  3. Is the ladder the right platform to use for the job.

Whilst the duration shouldn’t be the only factor to consider when thinking about using a ladder, it is going to be a contributing factor as the speed of putting up and down a ladder makes them ideal for quick jobs. The general rule of thumb with durations is: if you’re going to need to be at height for more than 30 minutes at a time then consider using different equipment.

The next point is whether it’s going to be safe or not. You should only consider using a ladder if it’s safe to so. A ladder will be safe to use if it can be secured on a level and stable surface.

And of course there’s whether it’s actually the right tool for the job. You might be tempted to use a ladder as a shortcut, but that could put your personal safety at risk, so we would recommend not going down that path.

Scaffolding

Scaffolding is a great platform to use in order to for work at height, especially when the job at hand is going to require you to be at height for extended periods. However if you’re thinking about using a scaffolding tower then you need to be competent to build, inspect, use and dismantle a tower.

Here at Safety & Access we offer PASMA training courses. The tower for users course offers training on the safe use of both Advance Guardrail (AGR) and Through The Trap (3T) methods and you will receive a PASMA PhotoCard proving your competence with scaffold towers.

Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)

If you’re using a MEWP, such as a scissor lift or a boom lift, then there are some further considerations which you may want to take on board, such as:

  • The height of the job above the ground
  • Whether the available MEWP is right for the job at hand
  • The conditions of the work space. Is there any risk that the MEWP may become unstable or overturn?
  • Are the people who are going to be using the MEWP fully trained, competent and fit to use the equipment.
  • Are there any obstructions which may affect the mobility of the MEWP. This could be obstructions in any way the platform can move, including above the MEWP.
  • Who else will be using the space you’re using. Is there potential for any traffic?
  • Will the person using the MEWP need any further restraints to complete the job, such as a harness.
  • Is the MEWP itself up to standard and the relevant checks been carried out before use.

These are some simple considerations to have before using a MEWP, but by going through these you can ensure that the MEWPs are operated as safely as possible.

If you’re unsure about Work at Height or are looking for training courses, we offer a number of Working At Height courses available at our Nottingham and Humber locations.