Working at Heights


Working at heights remains to be one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries, in the workplace and it is especially important within Facilities Management. Common causes include falling from ladders or through fragile surfaces. The term 'work at height' refers to a place that can result in someone falling and injuring themselves, while carrying out their work. You are working at height if you:​

  • Work above ground/floor level
  • Could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface
  • Or could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.

Assessing the risks when it comes to working from heights, weighs up to the height of the task, duration, frequency, and the condition of the surface being worked on. Before even working at height, these steps must be considered:

  • Avoid working at height where it is impractical to do so
  • Prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment
  • Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated

For each step, always consider measures that protect everyone at risk (collective protection) before measures that only protect the individual (personal protection).

Collective protection is equipment that does not require the person working at height to act for it to be effective. Examples are permanent or temporary guardrails, scissor lifts and tower scaffolds.

Personal protection is equipment that requires the individual to act for it to be effective. An example is putting on a safety harness correctly and connecting it, with an energy-absorbing lanyard, to a suitable anchor point.


Here are the Do's and Don'ts of working at height:


  • As much work as humanly 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
  • Take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
  • Provide protection from falling objects
  • Consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures


  • Overload ladders – consider the equipment or materials workers are carrying before working at height
  • Overreach when on ladders or stepladders
  • Rest a ladder against a weak upper surface, e.g., glazing, or plastic gutters
  • Use ladders or stepladders for strenuous or heavy tasks
  • Let anyone who is not competent (without the skills, knowledge or experience) work at height

There are a lot of misconceptions with ladders and working from heights, which include: being qualified to use a ladder at work, working at a height includes being on a staircase, having two feet and one hand on a stepladder, which are all myths when it comes to working from heights.


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