28 Aug 2020

What is working at height & what are the work at height regulations

In the UK, employers must follow strict regulations regarding worker safety. Falling from height is one of the leading causes of worker injuries and fatalities. It remains an imminent risk to all workers. Today, we will go through the regulations regarding ‘work at height’, find out what it is, and who it applies to.

What is 'work at height'?

Work at height refers to any work where the worker is at risk of falling and sustaining personal injuries. Such work can be indoors, outdoors, or even underground. The definition only covers falling from a height and does not include slipping or tripping on a surface. Work at height risk assessment is key for both the employer and the employee as the regulations may not cover all risks associated with a particular task. The following are some examples of work at height activities:

  • Scaffolding
  • Steel erection
  • Ladders and step ladders
  • Cranes

Such tasks require employers to work in elevated locations. Without proper risk assessment and access equipment, work at height can lead to life-threatening injuries and in serious cases even death.

What are the “work at height” regulations?

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 were imposed to reduce injuries and fatalities related to work at height. The 2005 regulation contains 19 sections in total. It broadly discusses the regulations regarding the definition of work at height, equipment used, duties of employees, duties of employers, and the exemptions to the regulations.

Employers: According to the regulations, the duties of the employers include but are not limited to:

  • Proper risk assessment
  • Proper planning
  • Proper supervision
  • Assessment of the workers’ competence
  • Ensure the use of proper equipment and their inspection and maintenance
  • Identify danger areas and avoid unnecessary risks

Employees: The employees are not legally required to take any training courses. However, they must co-operate with their employers in following the Work at Height Regulations. Every worker, whilst under the supervision of another, must report any breaches of safety whilst working at height; failure to do so may breach the working at height regulations. They should also make personal height risk assessments. The employee must use the equipment provided to him by the employer in accordance with:

  • Training (if any) in the use of the equipment received by him
  • The instructions regarding the use of that equipment from the employer in compliance with the Work at Height Regulations.

Visit Work at Height Regulations for a more detailed breakdown.

How do you decide if someone is 'competent' to work at height?

Work at Height requires all employers to ensure that every person involved in the organization, planning, supervision, or any other activity relating to work at height are competent. If any individual is to receive work at height training, he must do so under the supervision of a competent person.

The level of competence required for work at height varies. Formal training is not always necessary. Some jobs may merely require workers to be aware of their surroundings and use common sense. In the case of low-risk, short term jobs it may be up to the employer to make a work at height risk assessment. After the assessment, the workers may receive on-site training (e.g. how to avoid overloading a fragile surface).

However, many industrial and complex jobs require formal training. Certification, training, and previous work record are ways of proving competency. Employers may also conduct their own tests under supervision to ensure competency.

What equipment is used for working at height? 

The dangers of working at height can be minimized by using proper equipment. 

The type of equipment required varies from job to job. The most common type of work at height equipment’s include:

  • Access equipment
    • Ladders
    • Cranes
    • Scaffolds
    • MEWPS
    • Scissor Lifts
    • Boom Lifts
    • Vertical Masts
    • Trestles, Stages and Steps
  • Safety equipment
    • Safety Harnesses
    • Fall Arrest & Restraint Gear
    • Protective Headgear
    • Protective Suits
    • Anchorage devices
  • Dropped object safety
    • Safety Barrier
    • Nets
    • Toe Boards
    • Tool Tethering

According to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 the used equipment must undergo frequent inspection and maintenance. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all workers have received training for using their equipment. Damaged equipment should be disposed of and replaced promptly.

What types of courses are there? 

Work at Height Regulations 2005 does not contain any legal requirement for the training of workers. The only requirement is that workers must be competent. However, to attain that competency, training is required more often than not. You might consider learning while working. But constant supervision is a legal requirement for trainees and your employer might not be willing to provide a supervisor for you. Organizations have legal and medical liabilities if they hire someone without proper certification. That’s why a training certification increases your chances of landing a job. Moreover, it helps you ensure your own safety.

If you have decided to take start training, the next step is to choose the right training. There are a lot of training courses out there. Some of them can be taken online but on-site training is also available. Below we list some of the common work at height training courses:


IPAF training courses generally cover MEWPs and MCWPs. They are aimed at operators, service technicians, managers/supervisors, demonstrators, installers, and instructors.


It generally offers courses on the safe use of Mobile Access Towers. PASMA course certification is valid for 5 years.

Learn Construction:  

Being one of the leading training providers, Learn Construction, has an in-house working at height training program. The program covers operating, managing, planning, risk assessment, equipment training and general knowledge. This course is for organizers, planners and workers who work at height. Successful completion earns you a certification which is valid for 3 years.