What is the true definition of ‘working at height’?


In this blog, we explain exactly what working at height means and what this means for those who work in these environments in terms of ensuring the safety and well-being of employees.

Falls from a height continue to be the most common kind of fatal injury in the workplace for the fourth year running, with 171 fatal injuries from 2016-2021 due to falls from a height. You may wonder if you or your employees are classified as working at height and how the Work at Height Regulations (2005) apply to you. 

In this blog, we explain exactly what working at height means and what this means for those who work in these environments in terms of ensuring the safety and well-being of employees.

Definition of Working at Height

What constitutes working at height?

The Working at Height Regulations (2005) were implemented to prevent death or injury to employees resulting from falls from a height. This legislation applies to employers who work from a height, self-employed workers and those who manage people who do this work. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define working at height as “work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury”. We’ve put together a concise list of examples of working at a height below:

  • If you work above ground or floor level, this could apply to those who work on a ladder, roof, scaffolding, or other working platform—such as a fragile material or a surface with holes.
  • If there’s a risk of falling from an edge or through an opening or fragile surface
  • If there’s a risk of falling from ground level into an opening or hole in the ground

Working at height also includes work using ladders or on a flat roof. A common misconception of the Work at Height Regulations (2005) is that ladders are to be avoided, which is false. When used correctly and safely, ladders can be a great practical option for completing work at height, as long as the individuals using the ladder are competent and the equipment is suitable.

Working at Height with Harness

What is not included in the definition of working at height?

So, what does the term ‘working at height’ not include? Slips or trips at ground level are not classed as working at height, as a fall from height has to involve a fall from one level to a lower level. 

In addition, working at height does not include ascending or descending a permanent staircase in a building.

Next steps: what does the Work at Height Regulations (2005) mean for dutyholders?

Employers, managers, and the self-employed must ensure that work at height is suitably planned, supervised, and carried out; those who do these things must be deemed competent. 

The risks surrounding working at height must be appropriately considered and managed via collective and personal protection. Collective protection is a method of preventing and minimising fall risk via equipment that doesn’t require any action from the worker – such as guard rails and can protect more than one person. It is not reliant on PPE. Personal protective equipment includes equipment to protect the individual, such as a harness.

Remember that the equipment in use also needs to be suitable and appropriate, meaning that proper maintenance and inspection should be conducted prior to use. Staying compliant with this legislation is important in order to protect your employees from harm. Gain peace of mind that you are doing everything in your power to do this by educating yourself on what is required of you.

Looking for more information and training on all working at height requirements? Then look no further; visit HSQE Training for all your training needs, and you’ll have peace of mind that you’re being looked after.

All of our affordable courses are available online for ease of remote qualification, and it couldn’t be easier to access, so get in touch or buy online today.

All Courses for working at height.

For Services such as Ladder Inspections, press HERE!