Working at height is dangerous work. It can lead to fatalities and major injuries. Common causes of these injuries are falls from ladders and falls through fragile roofs. The Working at Height Regulations (WAHR) are designed to prevent death and injuries. The Regulations place legal responsibilities on all employers of those working at a height.
You are considered to be working at height if you are working on a ladder or a flat roof; could fall through a fragile surface; or could fall into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground. All employees, who are working at a height, should have sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that is the case.
Regardless of the task that you are performing, if you are using a ladder then the Regulations apply. If you are at a relatively low height stacking shelves, or at the top of a ladder cleaning windows or painting, then your employer must adhere to the regulations.
Your employer should, by law, plan work at height. Planning should be completed before the work is undertaken. Your employer must check that every area from which you will work at height is safe. Where there is a risk of falling objects, the employer is responsible for ensuring that no one can be injured by falling objects. This includes tools that you may be using while working at height, or loose masonry on a building site. All efforts must be made to secure tools that you are using, so that people below you are not injured if the tools are dropped during use. You must also be provided with protective clothing and head wear to minimise the risk of injury.
It is also the responsibility of the employer to provide the most suitable equipment appropriate for the work that you are undertaking. Not only must your employer provide suitable equipment, but that equipment must be in good condition. Further you should receive full training on the correct use of any equipment, including ladders or safety equipment provided. You should have the skills, knowledge and experience to perform a task for your employer. If you are in the process of being trained to use equipment, then you should work under the close supervision of a competent person.
All equipment must be inspected before use by a competent person. That is, someone who has the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to manage health and safety. Equipment should be inspected at suitable intervals, which are appropriate to the environment and use. Inspections should also occur every time that something happens that may affect the safety or stability of the equipment. Not only must your employer inspect the equipment, but there is also an obligation to keep records of any inspections.
If you work from a working platform which is more than 2 metres high, then it must be inspected after assembly and after any event liable to have affected its stability. In any event it must be inspected at intervals not exceeding seven days.
The WAHR also places responsibilities upon the employees. You are under a general legal duty to take reasonable care of yourself and others. You must co-operate with your employer so that health and safety duties and requirements are complied with. It is your responsibility to report any safety hazard to your employer. You must use equipment and safety devices in accordance with any training and instructions you have been given, (unless that would be unsafe.