Many people assume that they know what is meant by the phrase ‘working at height’. For many it simply means ‘working on a ladder’, while others believe that it is any time you are at work in a building above the ground floor. However, these are both incorrect and whether you are an employer or an employee it is important to know what is actually meant by ‘working at height’. This is because when someone is asked to work at height it is necessary to take certain precautions beforehand to ensure it can be carried out safely.

Employees who fail to take this into account can end up being injured if an accident occurs when they work at height, while employers may find that they are liable to pay personal injury damages if they didn’t put the proper procedures in place to be certain the work could be completed safely.

The definition of working at height

Working at height is defined as being any tasks that are carried out in a position where the worker could fall a distance and suffer injury. This could include any work above the ground floor level, any work where someone could fall over an edge or through a surface, or any fall from the ground into a hole or opening below ground level. Functionally, a fall from height must involve movement from one level to another. However, you are not considered to be working at height if you are walking up and down a permanent staircase.

That means that any work that involves ladders, step-ladders, platforms, scaffold towers or scaffolding will be considered to be working at height. But this is far from an exhaustive list and it very much depends on the circumstances surrounding the work that is being carried out as to whether or not it is considered to be work at height.

What regulations do you need to comply with?

The law and your responsibilities surrounding this are governed by the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It is considered that employers have a responsibly to protect their employees from the potential harm that could be caused from working at height without precautions. This responsibility also falls on anyone who controls any work at height such as building owners or managers who contract individuals to work for them.

It is considered to be the responsibility of the employer or manager to ensure that work at height is correctly planned and that those who are involved in work at height are competent to do so. The risks involved with the work should be assessed along with the risk of working on or close to fragile surfaces. Equally it is your responsibility to make sure the equipment is correct for the task at hand and that it has been fully inspected and maintained.

Ultimately any situation where an employee is expected to work in a location that could be dangerous, it is up to the employer to put in place potentially both regulations and safety equipment to ensure that these dangers don’t pose the potential to cause injury.