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The power in access

Safety tips for working at height


18 January 2023

Whether you’re working at height on a regular basis, or undertaking a brand-new project, safety is paramount. According to the HSE, working at height is one of the biggest causes of major injuries and, sadly, fatalities.


By taking simple and practical measures, such as those detailed below, employers can drastically reduce the risk to their workers.




1. Invest in the correct safety gear:

It’s important when working at height that all operatives wear the appropriate safety gear, such as:


  • Hard hats
  • Suitable footwear
  • Hearing and eye protection
  • High visibility clothing
  • Lanyards
  • Full body harness


Ensure that you have done your research to determine the type of safety equipment you’ll need for each project, considering the number of workers present, the location of the project, the surface being worked on and the height of the work. An in-depth risk assessment will assist in this stage, but more on that later.


2. Implement training for all necessary staff:

It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees are given adequate training; in fact, it’s the law. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 state that those involved in working at height are trained and competent. It’s therefore imperative that all operatives who work at height have been properly trained and educated on the potential risks they face, and that this training is revisited and refreshed on a regular basis.


At GTAccess, we offer a comprehensive range of training and safety courses for those working at height, and can recommend which course best suits your individual requirements.


3. Conduct regular risk assessments:

Employers are required by law to protect their employees, and others, from harm. Therefore, before any work at height begins, employers must ensure that risk assessments are undertaken. This involves a comprehensive examination of all potential risks involved in a project so that the correct precautions can be taken. The more detailed, the better.


A risk assessment will typically involve:


  • Identifying new and existing hazards
  • Identifying who could be harmed and how
  • A record of what you’re already doing to control the risks
  • Any further action needed to control the risks
  • Who is required to carry out each action


4. Use the appropriate equipment:

There’s a wide variety of access equipment that can be used when working at height, including ladders, stepladders, scaffolding, and elevated working platforms, and there are a number of factors that should be considered when choosing between them:


  • What are the working conditions?
  • What is the height to be climbed?
  • How long and how frequently will the equipment be used?
  • How efficient is in the installation and removal?
  • What are the risks involved and potential consequences?


Each type of equipment is designed for a different situation, so ensuring that you have the correct tools for the job at hand is key. Safety is, of course, the most compelling reason to choose the right work at height equipment. A risk assessment will reveal the potential dangers involved in a project, and selecting the correct work at height equipment can aid in mitigating those risks. 


5. Review your processes regularly:

Whether an accident has occurred or not, your policies and processes should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, to ensure legal compliance and reflect necessary changes. Reviews should be conducted once annually as a minimum to ensure they are kept up to date, but any alterations to working practices should be taken as a review opportunity.


Remember, an accident alone can be damaging for a company, but an accident combined with out-of-date processes would be far worse.




1. Overload equipment or workers:

All working at height equipment should be clearly labelled to indicate their safe working loads (SWL), so, the maximum load the equipment can safely lift. This should also include information on the number of people that can be lifted in addition to the SWL of the equipment. Not only can exceeding these limits lead to overstressed and damaged equipment, but it can greatly increase the risk of serious or even fatal accidents.


The same applies to manual handling. Employees should never be overloaded, and manual handling operations should always be carefully assessed or even avoided if there is a safer alternative.


2. Let untrained or inexperienced staff carry out work at height:

As mentioned above, the importance of training cannot be stressed enough. Not only is training required by law, but there is simply too much risk involved to allow anyone to undertake work at height without the proper knowledge. Anyone working at height should receive extensive training before undertaking any work, in addition to regular updated training to reduce complacency.


3. Ignore weather warnings:

Working at height is a risk, particularly outdoors, and that level of risk greatly increases when poor weather conditions come into play. Despite rising temperatures in the UK, the country has an average 159 days of rain and snow per year, while wind speeds generally average at least eight knots annually.


Any organisation that requires operatives to work at height should always keep a close eye on the weather. High winds, for example, can increase the potential for flying objects, while snow and icy conditions can cause slips. Employers should have procedures in place to manage potential risk in poor weather conditions or be prepared to pause work to eliminate the risk entirely.


4. Stay quiet when someone may be in danger:

Those working at height should be empowered to trust their instincts and speak up if they have any concerns before or while carrying out a task. Employers should encourage staff to ask themselves:


  • Do I feel safe in this environment?
  • Do I trust my equipment?
  • Do I know what to do if something goes wrong?


If the answer to any of those questions is ‘no’, workers should speak to a manager or supervisor before continuing. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


To speak to a member of our expert team about the requirements of your next project, please get in touch.