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Falls From Height

Falls from height accounted for over 4,000 major injuries as a result of a fall from height (HSE figures). Falls are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the biggest causes of major injuries.

Whilst falls are commonly associated with work in the construction industry, many occur in less risky circumstances (e.g. electricians fall from ladders, teachers fall from chairs and shop assistants fall when trying to get boxes down from high shelving and storage racks). Legislation introduced in April 2005 (The Work at Height Regulations 2005 as amended) was effected in order to secure better control of the risks associated with work at height. The regulations apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause injury. Additionally, they identify "duty holders" such as employers, the self-employed and any person who controls the work of others such as facilities managers and building owners who may contract out work at height.

Duty holders are required to ensure that:

  • Work at height is avoided where possible 
  • All work at height is properly planned and organised 
  • Those working at height are competent 
  • The risks of working at height are properly assessed and that appropriate work equipment is selected and used 
  • Equipment for work at height is properly is inspected and maintained 
  • The risks from fragile surfaces are properly controlled

Any work activity that involves access to places or positions that cannot be reached when standing on the ground should be regarded as "work at height" and subject to a risk assessment. There is a simple set of questions that should be asked before work commences:

  • Can work at height or above ground be avoided? (e.g. can the piece of equipment be lowered to the ground?) 
  • If work at height can not be avoided is the appropriate equipment to prevent falls available? (e.g. a suitable working platform such as scaffolding, cherry pickers and mobile elevating work platforms, edge protection, crawling boards for work on fragile surfaces etc) 
  • If the risk of falling can not be eliminated have the consequences of a fall been minimised? (e.g. by using equipment such as harnesses, nets or air bags)

Work at height should be regarded as a high-risk activity and subject to special controls. Only employees who have received special training and are familiar with the equipment necessary to reduce risks to an acceptable level should carry it out.

The Health and Safety Executive emphasises that the regulations cover all industries where work at height is carried out but they stress that the message is simple. Avoid work at height where possible but if it must be done, use competent persons, who have received suitable training and been given the correct equipment.

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Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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