Falls from a height

According to the Health and Safety Executive, falling from height is still one of the biggest causes of major injury to workers in the UK and the most common cause of death in the workplace. People employed in agriculture, forestry and construction industries are especially at risk.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (amended 2007) are intended to protect anyone who has to work at height. That can mean anything from working in a harness hundreds of feet in the air to standing on a chair to change a light bulb.

Falls from ladders are among the most common accidents of this type, either because the ladder has not been properly secured or a worker needs to use hand tools or carry materials.

More about falls from height

Falls from height account for 29% of all reported industrial injuries and remain the most common cause of death in the workplace. Agriculture, forestry, arboriculture (tree surgery) and the construction industry are the sectors where falls most frequently occur.

Employers have a duty of care under general health and safety legislation but equally every employee has a duty to look after their own health and safety at work by following all the health and safety policies put in place by their employer and using safety equipment provided.

There are some specific requirements contained in the Work at Height Regulations 2005. More general health and safety law such as the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 also include the requirement that all areas where people could fall from a height are properly guarded or covered.

Staff should only work on a ladder for a short time (preferably under 30 minutes) and wear a tool belt or holster to carry any tools leaving both hands free for climbing up and down safely. Extra precautions should be taken on or near any fragile surfaces.

Employers and those in control of any work at height must make sure that work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people and that any risk is assessed. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) gives guidance in the form of a leaflet called
Working at height: a brief guide to help companies comply with the law.