Implications and risks of working at height – and how to manage them

Implications and Risks of Working at Height

Working at height can occur in many different industries around the UK. From window cleaners to electricians, there are high places that need to be reached. But are you managing the risks effectively and preparing for if the worst happens?

If your business or job involves working at a height that if a fall occurs, it will cause personal injury, you need to be aware of the health and safety involved. In 2015, 29% of all workplace fatalities came from falls from a height.

In total, slips trips and falls at the workplace in 2015, accounted for 567,000 days off for employees in the UK according to the Health and Safety Executive. The most popular causes of workers falling from heights have been put down to:

  • Ladders – improper ladder placement or placing a ladder on a slippery surface can be detrimental to a worker
  • Incomplete Scaffolding – it is important for scaffolders to secure scaffolding and walkways effectively or they can become loose or insecure.
  • Roofs – fragile and damaged roofs can fall through or footholds can become dislodged causing falls
  • Gangways and catwalks – High up gangways or catwalks regularly come with a pole that can be used to attach a harness to, however, these are not always used
  • Vehicles – Vehicles that are high off of the ground such as HGVs, tractors or other machinery can be dangerous when not paying attention
  • Not using the right access equipment – Improper use of equipment can generally lead to a problem when it comes to accessing high places


As an employer, you are the one who has the upmost responsibility to provide a duty of care for your workforce. Before allowing your workforce the responsibility of working at a height, you must ensure they are all accurately trained in order to deal with the implications. You should also ensure you:

  • Make sure your workforce are fully trained and competent enough to work at a height. As well as fully supervised.
  • Assess whether there is a way to do the work without getting to a high area – in a lot of cases this is not possible.
  • Provide the right equipment for working at a height and ensuring this equipment/apparatus is effectively maintained.
  • Plan ahead – make sure all of the work completed is planned and risk assessed.


Whilst working at a height, it can be very easy to reduce the chance of a fall taking place, if not completely eradicate it in some instances. However, there will be certain times when the risk of falling cannot be eradicated, this is when the safety equipment that should have been supplied to them works miracles, protecting their head from being damaged, as well as elbows and knees.

You will also need an action plan that stipulates the actions of what to do when a fall does occur or is imminent. For many businesses, this is to leave the person still and call for medical assistance at the soonest opportunity.

Despite doing things to limit the risk of people falling off roofs, ladders, gangways, platforms and other high up places, it is essential that the employees carrying out the job are also competent and fully trained in working at height. Here at UK Industries Training, we offer training courses geared around working at heights, which can be transferred to many different industries.