The Dangers of ‘Work at Height’

Work at height is defined as:

‘work in any place, including a place at or below ground level, or obtaining access to or egress from such a place, while at work… where, if suitable measures were not taken, a person could fall a distance likely to cause personal injury’

When assessing or controlling this risk, the main aim should be to avoid working at height wherever possible and, if this is not reasonably practicable, the next step should be to use equipment or other control measures in order to prevent falls. You should also try to reduce the likelihood of injury by minimising the distance of a potential fall and the consequences of it.

To assist in preventing falls from height, you must properly PLAN, ORGANISE and SUPERVISE all work at height:


  • Determine if the work involves a risk of a fall that could cause personal injury.
  • Consider if the work can be avoided by undertaking it in a different way.
  • Determine the reasonable control measures that need to be used.
  • Ensure that there is a risk assessment undertaken and that appropriate work equipment is selected and used correctly.
  • Devise a safe system of work.
  • Include arrangements for emergencies and rescue.



  • Ensure all workers are aware of the safe system of work and are trained in safe      working methods.
  • Ensure workers are trained in correct use of the safety equipment.
  • For high risk work, consider a permit-to-work system.
  • Inspect and maintain all equipment and workplaces intended to control the risks.
  • Manage the risks from fragile surfaces, such as thin roofing materials or skylights.
  • Manage risks from falling objects.



  • Supervise to ensure that the work is completed in accordance with the safe system of work.
  • Take account of changing weather conditions.
  • Ensure that all workers are safe and clear of the work area before closing the job and putting premises and equipment back in service.


The Facts…
3 million people in the UK work at height as part of their job.

Falls from height are responsible for around a third of workplace deaths each year.

There were more than 6,300 major injuries last year from work-related falls from height.


Recent Cases…

Scaffolding firm fined after worker fell from ladder

A Birmingham firm has been fined after a worker suffered life changing injuries in a two-metre fall from a ladder while constructing scaffolding for the set of a television programme. He realised he was about to fall and jumped from the ladder, but landed heavily on his feet, badly breaking both heels.

HSE established a tower scaffold or elevated work platform should have been used instead of a ladder, and the court was told that had more suitable access equipment been used, the incident could have been avoided. (Read more…)

Fine and costs: £5,535

Manchester care home in court over vulnerable resident’s injuries

A Manchester care home has been fined for safety failings after a vulnerable resident was badly injured when he fell from a first floor window.

The court was told the risk of patients falling from open windows was well known in the care home sector, and restrictors should have been fitted to the widows to prevent them from opening more than ten centimetres. (Read more…)

Fine and costs: £8,597

And finally…

… for proof that nobody has to actually be injured for individuals or companies to be prosecuted; the following three cases:

Case 1 – May 2014

Case   2 – April 2014

Case   3 – May 2014

Owner of a skip hire firm fined after being filmed by a member of the public, lifting an employee in a digger bucket
(read more…)  

Roofing firm and its Managing Director both fined after allowing workers onto a house   roof to use a jet washer, without any safety measures in place. A concerned member of the public took a photo of the workers and reported it to the HSE
(read more…)

Owner and developer of a construction site in London fined after an HSE safety inspector twice spotted dangerous work at height from the carriage of a passing train
(read more…)

Fine and costs: £6,039

Fine and costs
(Company): £5,000

  Fine and costs
(Managing Director): £2,619

Fine and costs: £17,200


More information on preventing workplace falls is available at:

Information on improving safety in care homes is available at:

If you would like further assistance in developing your Risk Assessments, or Health & Safety Management Systems, Hettle Andrews ‘One’ is now available to all Hettle Andrews Clients.

Please contact Adam Webb, our Risk Services Associate for further details on:
T: 0121 423 6214

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