Working at height – what does your employer need to do to protect you?
Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of major injuries and deaths in the UK, a fact confirmed by the Health and Safety Executive. Injuries could involve a fall from a ladder or scaffolding, or falling through a fragile roof or window. If the accident happened while you were at work, you may be able to claim for compensation.
What are the working at height regulations in the UK?
If you are working in any place at or below ground level and whether falling any distance is likely to cause personal injury, the Work at Height Regulations 2005 require your employer to take certain steps to minimise the risks involved in working at height.
Is working at height essential to the job?
Your employer must firstly consider whether working at height is absolutely necessary and whether the work could be completed any other way. If working at height cannot be avoided, then your employer must ensure that the work is properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner. This will require your employer to carry out a risk assessment.
Working at height control measures for employers to consider
Your employer should be considering factors such as the place of work and any risks that are apparent, ensuring that any equipment being used to access the work area such as ladders are in good working order and the right ladder for the job, any scaffolding has been erected by a licensed scaffolder and safety rails are in place, and whether any further safety equipment such as wearing a harness or installing a safety net would reduce the risk of injury.
Being trained on working at height
Your employer should also be ensuring that you are competent to work at height and have been informed or properly trained about the risks and how to approach the job safely. For shorter tasks (under 30 mins), on-the-job training is enough. For more complex jobs where complications like scaffolding are involved, the HSE expects more formal working at height training delivered in a classroom setting. There are many training organisations who offer programmes designed to meet the HSE’s specific working at height training requirements.
What is my responsibility?
It is up to your employer to provide the proper training, correctly assess the risk to you and provide the appropriate equipment. However, you must still take responsibility for your own safety, and if you believe there is a clear risk to you or a colleague, then speak up.
Many employers will offer “danger money” – enhanced pay to offset the risk to your safety – to employees who have to work at height. However this doesn’t affect their obligation to ensure your safety, or your ability to claim if you have been made to work in an unsafe environment.
More information on working at height
The Health and Safety Executive has put together a resource for employees and employers who need to deal with working at height procedure. You can find out more about the risks involved, and the measures which should be put in place to reduce those risks, here.
When working at height goes wrong
Our personal injury team have dealt with many cases where serious injuries have occurred from working at height.
We acted for Matthew, a lorry driver for a haulage and logistics company. When he arrived at the drop-off point for the load he was carrying, one of the internal safety straps within the trailer was caught, and he couldn’t get the lorry to release its load. He climbed up to release the strap, but when he reached the top the side of one of the containers came open, and knocked him from the lorry. He fell two metres onto a concrete surface, and badly broke his leg as he landed. Doctors tried to repair the damage to his leg but, unfortunately, there was no option but to amputate the leg below the knee.
We also acted for Simon, who was roofing a storage shed approximately 4.8m high. He was fixing steel, corrugated plastic covered roofing sheets on to the roof joists. In order to complete the job, Simon had to climb up a ladder while holding a cordless drill and some screws. When he began using the screws to affix the roof sheets, he slipped and fell backwards. Unfortunately, Simon suffered a severe spinal injury and was left paralysed.
In both cases we were successfully able to negotiate damages that our client could use to fund treatment, rehabilitation, and specialist equipment like wheelchairs and prosthetics. Compensation can be used to ease the burden on NHS services by funding private healthcare when it would otherwise not have been possible.
Legal advice following a fall