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Working at Height – Tips by Acorn Health and Safety

Working at height remains one of the biggest cause of fatalities and major injuries in the UK. Common causes include falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces.

‘Work at height’ means working in a place where, if no precautions were in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury (for example a fall through a fragile roof).

Before you undertake any work at height, you must ensure the work is properly planned and supervised, and must only be carried out by competent people. You must also use the correct type of access equipment for the task. A competent person is someone with the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job.

Planning the work:

The first thing to do is to assess the risks.

Factors to weigh up include the height of the task, the condition of the surface being worked on, how long the task will take and the frequency of the job.

Where possible:

  • avoid working at height entirely
  • where working at height cannot be easily avoided,  use an existing place of work that is already safe, or the right type of equipment to prevent falls
  • where the risk cannot be eliminated, minimise the distance and consequences of a fall by using the correct type of access and protective equipment for the task

For each step, always consider measures that protect everyone at risk (collective protection, e.g. scissor lifts, or tower scaffold), before measures that only protect the individual (personal protection, e.g. harness and lanyard connected to an anchor point).

Do’s and don’ts of working at height


  • as much work as possible from the ground
  • ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height
  • ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly
  • Check the pictogram or label on the access equipment for information on the safe working load (SWL)
  • take suitable precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
  • provide protection from falling objects
  • consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures



  • let anyone who is not competent work at height
  • Overload ladders – consider the equipment or materials workers are carrying.
  • overreach on ladders or stepladders
  • rest a ladder against weak upper surfaces, e.g. glazing or plastic gutters
  • use ladders or stepladders for strenuous or heavy tasks, only use them for light work of short duration (a maximum of 30 minutes at a time)

Samuel Nesbitt, Consultant 

For more information on our working at height training course in Bristol please visit