Working at Height Regulations apply to all types of work at height where there is a risk of a fall that’s likely to cause personal injury. Employers, buildings owners, facilities managers and anybody else who controls work at height (including the self-employed) may be held responsible should an accident occur and would be liable if the access and safety equipment was found to be faulty or uncertified. All of these individuals and organisations have a legal responsibility to ensure that the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR 2005) are implemented and that all activity is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent personnel. They are also responsible for ensuring that fall protection systems for work at height are inspected on a regular basis – at a maximum 12 monthly intervals, but more frequently when working in hazardous circumstances and environments.
The Regulations state that the employer (or organisation that controls the work at height, such as a facilities management company) must take responsibility for certain duties of care under the WAHR 2005. These Regulations state that the employer must make sure that workers have available the appropriate work at height equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and that workers receive the appropriate training in the use of that equipment and that they should be properly supervised.
Regulation 12 of the WAHR 2005 specifically covers the inspection of fall protection equipment and ensure that it is properly tested and inspected on a regular basis. The Regulations also state that surfaces, permanent rails and parapets where work is to be carried out should be checked on every occasion before the equipment is used – again, this is the responsibility of the Duty Holder. The legislation identifies certain danger areas, such as fragile surfaces, where it’s advises that special consideration be given. In the case of fragile surfaces, the Duty Holder must ensure that a suitable and sufficient platform or covering is in place and they must take all precautions to make sure that the distances from these surfaces to the ground are restricted to minimise the consequences of a fall.
It is also the responsibility of the employer (or other Duty Holder) to make sure that workers are made aware of any fragile surfaces with prominent warning notices in place as the hazard is approached. The guidance also recommends that equipment (such as guardrails) is available to prevent an individual from entering a dangerous work at height area.
The most recent statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that although falls from a height have been reduced in recent years, they are still the most common cause of injuries to workers and account for 29% of all workplace fatalities. One of the best methods for a business to minimise its risks from Work at Height activities is to ensure compliance with the legislation and ensure that their systems, access equipment and PPE equipment are fit for purpose at all times. This will allow them to rest assured that work at height equipment is compliant and that they are taking all possible steps to minimise the risk to their employees.