The dangers surrounding working at height are obvious, but the rules about this are not always so clear. It’s important to know your obligations with regard to safety but that doesn’t mean that you should worry about every detail you hear. You should never rely on hearsay and rumour when it comes to regulations. Here are some common myths about working at height and the reality behind them.

Myth 1: Ladders are banned on building sites

It’s not true that ladders are banned on building sites. However, they should only ever be used if they are suitable for the work. If the work only takes a short of time to complete and there is a low risk involved then a ladder is appropriate. At all times it is essential to have a qualified person carry out a risk assessment to understand whether a ladder is the sensible item to use in the situation. 

Myth 2: If you have to walk up a staircase you are working at height

There is some confusion over what counts as ‘working at height’. The definition here is not necessarily limited to your physical position compared to ground level. For example, walking up a permanent staircase in a building does not mean that you are working at height. Generally you are considered to be working at height if there is a potential to fall from one level to another.

Myth 3: There’s no need to wear a helmet when working at height

Some people believe that if you are working at height – for example, on a scaffold tower – there is no need to wear a safety helmet or other form of headgear. This isn’t the case. In almost any form of construction maintenance, headgear is essential but if you are working with scaffolding or scaffold towers you should not attempt to work without one. Firstly, there will clearly be times during the work where you will be at a lower level, and here your safety helmet can protect you from items falling from above. Equally, safety helmets are designed to protect your skull in the event that you should slip or fall.

Myth 4: You shouldn’t use second-hand scaffolding

There is no reason to believe that you should not use second-hand scaffold towers. As long as sensible precautions are taken and you buy from reputable sellers, used scaffold towers can be a smart and cost effective way to get the perfect equipment to work at height.

Myth 5: You need to be qualified to use a ladder at work

While there are no qualifications that are necessary to obtain before using a ladder, you should have the knowledge, skills and training to use the ladder for the work that you are carrying out. It’s not necessary to have classroom training – and you can be trained on the job by a competent person.

Myth 6: You need to have two feet and one hand on a ladder at all times

It is true that you need to maintain three points of contact for a ladder. And while some people have interpreted this to mean that you need to have two feet and one hand on a ladder at all times, this is not necessarily the case. If you need to have two hands free to carry out the work – for example, installing a ceiling light – your body can count as the third point of contact.