Work at height

Work at height means: work in any place, including at or below ground level, where a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.  This includes access to and egress from that place of work but does not include stairways or slips and trips on the level.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended) adopt a risk based approach to working at height, with risk assessment being the key to proper planning and organisation of the work.  The overriding principle of the Regulations is that all reasonably practicable measures must be taken to prevent anyone falling.

The Regulations apply to all work activities in all industries and all work situations irrespective of the height involved.  They also require that all reasonable practicable measures are taken to prevent objects falling which could cause injury to any person and to manage risks associated with working on or near to fragile surfaces.  

They place duties on employers, the self-employed and any person who controls the work of others (e.g. those who engage contractors to work at height) to the extent they control that work.  These are known as “Duty Holders” who are required to ensure that:

  • all work at height is properly planned, organised and supervised
  • all work at height takes account of weather conditions
  • those involved in work at height are trained and competent
  • the place where work at height is done is safe
  • equipment for work at height is appropriately selected and inspected
  • all the risks from work at height are properly assessed (and recorded where appropriate)
  • fragile surfaces are properly protected
  • the risks from falling objects are properly controlled
  • emergencies and rescue operations are planned for.

The Regulations set out a hierarchy of control measures which duty holders are required to follow when planning work at height:

  1. Avoid working at height if possible
  2. Prevent falls through:
    • use of an existing safe place of work or means of access
    • use of the most suitable way of working
    • selection of the most suitable work equipment
  3. Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur.

The provision of information, instruction and training, where necessary, is also an important factor.

Useful information on the prevention of falls from height is available from the HSE website at