Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

How to comply with the Working at Height Regulations
Posted by David Cant on April 19, 2012

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 needs to be followed by every company in every industry where work is being carried out at height. The regulations are there to reduce the risks of falling and consist of duties which need to be followed. The regulations apply to employers and the self-employed, and they also apply to anyone who has control over the work being carried out by others which includes business or building owners and facilities managers.

Complying with the Work at Height Regulations

In order to comply with the regulations those who are responsible to follow the duties have to:

  • Make sure that all the work at height has been planned and organised properly
  • Ensure all of the employees carrying out the work from height are competent
  • Duty holders must carry out risk assessments
  • Provide the proper equipment for the job
  • When working on fragile surfaces the risks must be properly managed
  • All equipment has to be checked to make sure it is adequate and well maintained

The hierarchy for managing work at height is as follows:

  1. Duty holders need to make sure that working at height is avoided wherever possible
  2. When working at height is unavoidable equipment or other safety measures must be used to prevent falls
  3. Where risks cannot be fully eliminated it is necessary to minimise the distance as well as any consequences of falls which may occur

Information about the Use of Ladders

There is a myth which concerns the use of ladders, and although many people believe they can no longer be used this is not actually the case. Ladders can be used providing the job has a low risk and the job only has a short duration. A workplace risk assessment needs to also show why the use of other equipment is not appropriate.

Before using a ladder it is necessary to make sure that it is suitable for the job and also that it is safe to use. A pre-check can be carried out by the employee who will be using the ladder for the job. All of the checks need to be started before work begins and also if anything about the ladder or the job has been changed once work commences.

Further Information

  • The use of guard rails is necessary for construction work on working platforms. The handrails must be at least 950mm in height and gaps should not exceed 470mm between the top railing and any intermediate rail. Toe boards need to have a minimum height of 100mm and must be suitable.
  • The se of guard rails for other industries (not the construction industry) do not have any prescriptive dimensions. They must however be positioned so that a person is unable to fall through the gaps or over the railings. The guidance of guard rail heights is currently a minimum of 950mm, if the rail is lower than this you should have this justified in your risk assessment.
  • The building regulations state that guard rails should be 1100mm which is suitable for buildings such as factories, warehouses, offices, public buildings, and shops.

Contact the health and safety consultants to discuss any concerns over the Work at Height Regulations. Call 0800 1488 677 today to find out more


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Construction Health and Safety, Health and Safety Policy, Health and Safety Regulations, Health and Safety Services, Health and Safety Training, Workplace Safety


  1. Alan Ford
    September 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Is it a legal requirement for workers at height to undergo medicals?

    • September 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      There isn’t a requirement for workers to undergo a medical (though I do stand to be corrected) but a worker should fit and well enough for the work they intend to undertake at height. Why do you ask?

  2. Gerry
    May 26, 2015 at 10:57 am

    We have a roof that has various bits of equipment on it, the parapet wall around the edge of the roof is 950mm,(no gaps), do we need to increase to 1100mm?

    • May 26, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Hi Gerry, Parapet walls with a handrail of 950mm high are ok, there should also, be a middle rail so that the gap in between do not exceed 470mm. 1100mm high Handrails normally required on landings and a balcony. Does that help?

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