Working at Height (WAH)

Key issues

  • WAH applies to all types of access and elevated work platforms
  • It applies to all sectors (not just construction)
  • It requires a risk assessment approach to working at height.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAH) finally came into force on 6 April 2005. The regulations apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall that may cause injury. They place duties on employers, contractors and those who control work (such as building owners who use contractors) to control these risks.

The new regulations apply to all types of access and workstations relating to work at height. This includes ladders, stepladders, scaffolding, mobile access equipment and lanyards. The regulations require employers to ensure that:

  • Work at height is properly planned and organised
  • Those involved in work at height are competent
  • A risk assessment informs decisions on the selection and use of the work equipment; and
  • Equipment for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

In addition, risks due to work on or near fragile surfaces should be properly controlled.

The regulations set out a ‘hierarchy’ for managing and selecting equipment for work at height. This means:

§ Avoid work at height if reasonable to do so (very often this is not possible, but there are increasing number of ways to do this, notably through planning but also (for example) by using equipment that reaches up to the job instead)
§ Use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where work at height cannot be avoided
§ Where the risk of a fall cannot be eliminated, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall.

Those who have already followed good practice for work at height should be doing enough to comply with the regulations. Employers need to choose work equipment and select other measures (such as guardrails and working platforms) to prevent falls, ahead of other measures which may only mitigate the consequences of a fall (such as nets and airbags) or which may only provide personal protection from a fall (notably harnesses).

WAH covers a comprehensive range of activities, but they do not apply to instruction or leadership in caving and climbing by way of sporting, recreational, team building or similar activities when engaged in other work at height.