Working at Height
Please select a letter from the A-Z list below:
New for 2010: Selecting the Correct
Equipment, HSE's WAIT
Falls from Height remain the single biggest
cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of major
injury. Sadly most of these injuries could have been
prevented if the necessary precautions had been put in place and
the University is determined to safely manage all Work at Height
taking place on our premises.
The University therefore has a Work at Height Policy
Working at Height – HSE
The HSE offers extensive documentation and
guidance in respect of working at height :
The following guidance (which particularly applies to the
hazards of greatest height and normally applicable to some of our
Facilities staff) has been taken from the HSE documentation.
- What is Working at Height?
- Regulations Hierarchy
- Rules to Prevent Falls
- Selecting Access Equipment – & the HSEs ‘WAIT’ Tool
- Ladder Safety
- Safe Working Platforms
- Mobile and Suspended Access Equipment
- Safety Harnesses
- Protection Against Falling Materials
working at height
According to the Work at Height Regulations
2005 a place is 'at height' if a person could be injured falling
from it, even if it is at or below ground level and 'work' includes
moving around at a place of work (except by a staircase in a
permanent workplace). So, at York St John this could include anyone
using steps or a low push stool in the Fountains Learning Centre or
in an office, as well as our Maintenance or Portering staff working
from steps or ladders.
The Working at Height Regulations requires the
University to do everything reasonably practicable to prevent
anyone falling whilst carry out work activities and the basic risk
assessment hierarchy to manage working at height is:
- Avoid working at height. (i.e. Don’t do
- Use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls if
working at height can't be avoided. (i.e. Do it
- If there is still a risk of a fall use work equipment or other
measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall should
one occur e.g. netting. (i.e. Reduce the hazard if anything
measures should always take priority over personal measures e.g.
guardrails rather than safety harnesses.
to prevent falls
The following points should be considered when
working at height:
- Don't work at height unless it is essential to do so and the
only means of carrying out the work.
- Properly plan for and organise all working at height.
- Those involved in working at height are trained and competent
to do so.
- Appropriate supervision is provided.
- The place where working at height is taking place is safe e.g.
no overhead cables, fragile surfaces, risk of falling objects,
stable ground, sufficient working space, no risk of someone /
something impacting into access equipment e.g. ladders.
- Equipment is suitable for the task it is being used e.g. will
support the weight of the workers using it and any materials and
equipment they are likely to use or store on it, can be adequately
- Equipment is regularly inspected and maintained in accordance
- Assess weather conditions before working at height takes
- Emergency procedures are in place and communicated to all staff
involved with the work.
4.Selecting access equipment & use of
the HSE WAIT Tool
New for 2010 is the HSE's
WAIT toolkit. If you are a manager with a need to
have staff occasionally work at height, and aren't sure about which
access equipment to use, they've created WAIT to help you select
the correct access equipment for the job. It gives users practical
advice and guidance on the factors to consider when selecting
access equipment for planned work at height. It also gives guidance
on how to work at height safely, plus useful information on some of
the different types of access equipment available.
- Click here to access WAIT
The nature and duration of the work and the
risks involved with erecting, as well as using the access
equipment, will all influence the selection of the equipment to be
used. For greater heights e.g. to access roofs and upper floors of
our buildings we regularly use access equipment such as Mobile
Elevated Working Platforms (‘MEWPS’) and tower scaffolds, where in
the past ladders may have been more often used.
Only Trained staff may use work at height
access equipment to select and safely use the right access
equipment to work at height in and around our buildings.
- Available space on site. Each type of platform requires minimum
amounts of space, e.g. MEWPS and Access Towers need outriggers - is
there room for them?
- The type of work to be carried out, e.g. will it require heavy
loads on the platform?
- How long will the work last?
- What risks will there be during erection of the platform?
- Once erected how difficult will it be to maintain the
- How many people will need to use the equipment?
- Can the equipment be stabilised, e.g. can the scaffold, Access
Tower be tied?
- Can part of the structure can be provided early in the work so
that there is a permanent working platform.
The HSE have published specific
guidance on the use of ladders because of the hazards that they
present and the number of accidents which regularly occur from
using ladders unsafely.
- Ladders - It
is University Policy that ladders should only be used for access or
as workplaces to do light, short duration work, and then only
if it is safe to do so. It is generally safer to use a tower
scaffold or MEWP even for short-term work. In accordance with
our Working at Height Policy when the risk assessment has
determined that extendable ladders are the most
appropriate equipment, these will be used with
Laddermate and Microlight
stabiliser devices (or similar products) in order to further reduce
- At the University heavy work activity such as drilling or
carrying heavy loads should never be carried out from a ladder.
When using a ladder ensure that the person on the ladder maintains
three points of contact, i.e. both legs and a hand. People should
never have to lean sideways when up a ladder.
- Consider all the risks e.g., if harnesses are used, is there
sufficient clearance from the ground to allow the shock absorbing
lanyard or inertia reel to fully extend?
- Check there is adequate clearance for equipment e.g., overhead
power lines can be a risk when erecting scaffolds or using MEWPs;
there can be a risk of crushing against nearby structures when
mobile access platforms are manoeuvred.
- Always consider who else uses the area e.g. is the work area
near a main entrance with lots of people coming and
6. Safe working platforms
Working platforms are the parts of structures,
MEWPs, access towers etc which people stand on whilst working. As
well as being adequately supported and provided with guard rails or
barriers, working platforms should:
- Be a minimum of 600mm wide and / or wide enough to allow people
to pass back and forth safely and to use any equipment or material
necessary for the work.
- Free of openings and traps through which people's feet could
get caught, causing them to trip, fall or be injured.
- Constructed to prevent materials from falling through. As well
as toe boards or similar protection at the edge of the platform,
the platform itself should be constructed to prevent any object
which may be used on the platform from falling through gaps or
holes, causing injury to people working below.
- Kept free of trip and slip hazards, keep platforms clean and
tidy and do not allow mud to build up on them. Where necessary,
provide handholds and footholds.
7.Mobile and suspended access
Where it is not possible to work from the
existing structure and the use of a scaffold working platform is
not appropriate, Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs) are
sometimes used at York St John by trained university staff or by
trained and competent contractors appointed by the university.
Anyone using this type of equipment must be
trained and competent to operate it, in some cases more than one
person will be needed to operate it. In addition, operators
should understand the emergency and evacuation procedures.
Before work starts
- A handover certificate is provided by the installer. The
certificate should cover how to deal with emergencies, operate,
check and maintain the equipment, and state its safe working
- Equipment is installed, modified and dismantled only by
- There is a current report of thorough examination for the
- Only fully trained, competent staff operate the equipment.
- The ground is firm and level and equipment tyres are properly
- A harness with a fall restraint lanyard attached to the MEWP
platform is used.
- Areas of the site where people may be struck by the platform or
falling materials have been barriered off. Debris fans or covered
walkways may also be required.
- Systems are in place to prevent people within the building
being struck by the platform as it rises or descends and prevent
the platform coming into contact with open windows or similar
obstructions which could cause it to tip.
- Supports e.g. outriggers are extended properly and
chocked. In addition, they must be protected from damage
(e.g., by being struck by passing vehicles or by interference from
- The equipment can be protected from adverse weather. High winds
can tilt platforms and make them unstable. Establish a maximum safe
wind speed for operation. Storms and snow falls can also damage
platforms, so they should be inspected before use after severe
- Emergency procedures are in place and communicated to all
At the end of each day
- The platform is cleared of tools and equipment.
- All power has been switched off and, where appropriate, power
cables have been isolated and secured.
- The equipment is secured where it will not be accessible to
vandals or trespassers.
- Notices are attached to the equipment warning that it is out of
service and must not be used.
- Check the shift report for warnings of malfunction etc.
Providing a safe place of work and system of
work to prevent falls should always be the first consideration.
However, there may be instances when it is not practicable for all
or any of the requirements for guard rails etc to be provided (eg,
where guard rails are taken down for short periods to land
materials). If people can still approach any open edge from
which they could fall, other forms of protection will be needed and
at the University our Maintenance and some other Facilities staff
are trained to use safety harnesses.
When using harnesses and temporary horizontal
- Harnesses and lanyards are made of man-made fibres and prone to
degradation by sunlight, chemicals etc. It is important to carry
out tactile pre-use checks daily and in good light, before using
harnesses and lanyards and if there is the slightest doubt about a
harness or lanyard, do not use it. Faults can be noticed by
discolouration, little tears and nicks, grittiness to touch
- Any equipment which is not safe to use must be removed from
service and clearly identifiable that it must not be used.
- A harness will not prevent a fall but will minimise the risk of
injury if there is a fall. The person who falls may be injured by
the impact load to the body when the line goes tight or when they
strike against parts of the structure during the fall. An energy
absorber fitted to the energy-absorbing lanyard can reduce the risk
of injury from impact loads.
- Minimise free-fall distance. Keep anchors as high as possible,
reducing fall distances, the attachment point must also be capable
of withstanding the impact load in the event of a fall.
Where possible the energy-absorbing lanyard should also be attached
above the wearer.
- Systems should be in place to recover anyone who does
- Anyone who needs to attach themselves should be able to do so
from a safe position. They need to be able to attach themselves
before they move into a position where they are relying on the
protection provided by the harness.
- There must be an adequate fall height to allow the system to
deploy and arrest the fall.
- A twin lanyard may be necessary if the wearer needs to move
about. A twin lanyard allows the wearer to clip on one lanyard in a
different position before unclipping the other lanyard.
- Installation of equipment to which harnesses will be fixed,
e.g. an anchor, must be supervised by a suitably qualified
person. The anchors must also be formally checked to ensure
loadings are sufficient before being used for the first time.
- Everyone using a harness must know how to check, wear and
adjust it before use and how to connect themselves to the structure
or safety line as appropriate.
- Harnesses and lanyards must be thoroughly examined
periodically, and / or as a minimum every six months.
9.Protection against falling
The risk of falling materials causing injury
should be minimised by keeping working platforms clear of loose
materials. In addition, provide a way of preventing materials or
other objects rolling, or being kicked, off the edges of platforms.
This may be done with toe boards, solid barriers, brick guards etc
at open edges. If the scaffold is erected in a public place, nets,
fans or covered walkways may be needed to give extra protection for
people who may be passing below. High-visibility barrier netting is
not suitable for use as a fall prevention device.
Because of the hazards that they
present all roofs are out of bounds and can only be accessed
- Competent and trained
Facilities Staff with the permission of the Head of Estates
Development or Maintenance Services manager.
- Where determined by
the risk assessment such roofwork may only be undertaken if staff
have safety harnesses to latch on to the safety points or cables on
university roofs where these exist.
- Students or other
unauthorised persons may never be given access to any university