Work at Height Regulations 2005

Updated: December 15, 2020

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 apply to all work-related activities where there is a risk of an employee being injured in a fall from height in the workplace. The regulations impose duties on employers to manage the risks associated with working at height and to take all 'reasonable' precautions to prevent falls and injuries following a fall.

Is your employer responsible for your injuries?

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 are intended to safeguard everyone who has to work at height. "At height" covers everything from working on a scaffold to standing on a stepladder one metre above the ground.

Under the Regulations, employers must take reasonable steps to prevent their employees from falling. Where it is not possible to work from the ground, employers should carry out a risk assessment and put safety practices in place to reduce the risk of injury.

Appropriate safety measures might include:

  • Constructing a stable platform for working rather than relying on ladders
  • Using equipment that reduces the distance of a potential fall
  • Training staff for working at height
  • Providing personal protective equipment such as hard hats and safety harnesses
  • Ensuring that mobile platforms and scaffolding towers are only constructed by a competent person
  • Positioning ladders and stepladders to minimize stretching and reaching
  • Avoiding working at height where there is an additional risk of slipping, for example, in wet or icy weather

You can make an injury claim for a fall at work if your accident happened for reasons like:

  • You were told to use a ladder or cherry picker that you have not been trained to use
  • Another worker, contractor or site visitor did something dangerous
  • You fell because of a faulty guard rail
  • You slipped or tripped on something (e.g. loose cables, packing material, cleaning fluid)
  • Poor lighting

What is "working at height"?

"Work at height" means working at any height where, if the worker falls, there is a risk of injury. Examples include:

  • Working on a ladder
  • Working on a scaffold
  • Working on a roof
  • Working on a loading platform
  • Working at ground level alongside a pit, where there is a risk of falling below ground level
  • Climbing a stepladder, even one that is just a short distance from the ground.

What do the Regulations say?

As a primary duty, employers must ensure that work is carried out from the ground wherever possible, thus avoiding a "work at height" scenario. Using extendable tools is a common solution to achieve this goal.

If work at height cannot be avoided, then employers must do all that is practicable to prevent a fall, for example, by providing edge protection and barriers, and to mitigate the risk of injury by reducing the potential distance and impact of a fall.

Some of the steps an employer might take include:

  • Using the right equipment for the job
  • Ensuring workers can get safely to and from the work-at-height location
  • Ensuring ladders, scaffold towers and other equipment is stable and strong enough for the job and properly maintained
  • Making sure that only "competent" people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience are employed to perform the at-height task
  • Taking account of weather conditions that could compromise safety
  • Training workers on safe procedures to ensure they do not overreach or overload when working at height
  • Using personal protective equipment such as soft landing systems or a safety harness connected to a suitable anchor point.

There is a misconception that ladders are banned under the Regulations. This is not the case. In many cases, a ladder may be the right equipment for the job especially for low-risk, short-duration work.

Common sense should prevail. Employers have a duty to assess the risks and design the work task accordingly.

The Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007

The Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations came into force in April 2007.

They apply to anyone who works at height while providing instruction or leadership to one or more persons in caving or climbing by way of sport, recreation, team building or similar activities. Since 2007, such persons must comply with the 2005 Work at Height Regulations in full.

Have you been injured at work?

If you have been injured at work in the last 3 years, you may be able to claim financial compensation.

Find out more about making a work accident claim:

  • Do you qualify?
  • How much compensation could you get?
  • How does No Win, No Fee work?
Work accident claim guide