Working at Height – A Small Business Owner’s Guide

Working at Height – A Small Business Owner’s Guide

19th May 2016

According to official statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) a million British businesses and 10 million workers carry out tasks that involve some form of work at height every year here in the UK.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that on average 40 people are killed every year and 4,000 people suffer major injuries as a result of a fall at work – this often involves working at height.  Any business owner here in the UK (no matter how small or large the company is) has a duty of care towards every employee so making sure that risks are eliminated or minimised is a vital part of ensuring compliance with workplace health and safety regulations.


Before you or any of your workforce start to work on a site make sure that a qualified expert has verified that all of the necessary protective measures and equipment is in place.  The potential dangers of fragile surfaces and falling objects should be identified so that any necessary safety measures can be taken before work begins.


The HSE advises that work at height should be avoided whenever it is reasonably practicable to do so.  When work at height is unavoidable, the overall limit between the worker and the ground should be limited if possible.  Any platform or ladder being used to work from should be stable and steady with easy and safe access to and from the work area.  In hazardous or extreme weather conditions, working at height should be avoided.


It’s essential to make sure that the workplace is well equipped with the correct work tools and safety equipment, all of which should be stable and strong enough to carry out the tasks at hand.  All tools and access equipment should be maintained and inspected on a regular basis.  Before carrying out any work at height, access equipment needs to be checked to ensure that it is still in good, safe condition – this applies each time a piece of access equipment (safety ladders, towers, scaffolding, mobile platforms, etc.) is moved in order to access another location for working at height.


As an employer it’s your responsibility to ensure that any members of your workforce who are required to work at height are fully trained, competent and able to complete the tasks at hand.  When it comes to training and qualifications, don’t just accept somebody’s word that they have the correct qualifications, ask to see proof of this unless your company has arranged and provided the relevant training.

Whether working at height is a regular occurrence for your workforce or just an occasional task, as an employer you have overall responsibility for the work being undertaken, the access and safety equipment being used and the people who are carrying out the job.  If you’re unsure of your duties and responsibilities, then a quick check on the UK Health and Safety Executive website should supply you with all the information you need to ensure compliance at all times.