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Working at Height Regulations 2005 Explained

Updated: Apr 28

two men working at height on a roof

Working at height is a common hazard in many industries such as in construction, distribution, forestry and many more. The Working at Height Regulations 2005 was put into place to outline the laws and guidelines that must be followed in the workplace to prevent accidents and injuries when working at height.


In this Article:



Working at Height Definition


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines working at height as the “work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury”. In the workplace, this can often mean when a task requires the use of a ladder, scaffolding, working on roofs and many other places that involve the workers to be above ground level.

Working at height is often the cause of injury and fatality at work and so it is very important that all employees receive the appropriate training and that regular risk assessments are carried out. Safety measures must be assessed and implemented to prevent the risk of injury and ensure all workers are safe at work at all times.

Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers and they must ensure that all tasks are supervised, managed and planned by fully trained and competent workers with the right equipment provided.



Working at Height Regulations


The HSE created the Work at Height Regulations 2005 which employers must follow to ensure the health and safety of all employees in the workplace. The regulations are put into place to minimise the risk of accidents and injuries at work by falling from height. If your workplace requires employees to constantly carry out tasks at height, the regulations will apply to your workplace.

Planning, Supervision and Reasonable Safety

Planning supervision and safety are mandatory requirements for employers to follow in order to adhere to the working at height regulations.

The working at height regulations states that:

“Every employer shall ensure that work at height is—

(a) properly planned;

(b) appropriately supervised; and

(c) carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe.”

Equipment Training and Reasonable Instruction

The regulation also states that employees “shall use any work equipment or safety device provided to him for work at height by his employer, or by a person under whose control he works, in accordance with—

(a) Any training in the use of the work equipment or device concerned; and

(b) The instructions which have been provided to him by that employer in compliance with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon that employer.”


All equipment used must be correct and regularly inspected and maintained to ensure the safety of workers when using the necessary equipment. Risk assessments must be regularly performed to prevent falls and injuries during any working at height tasks.


2 men, one passing something up to the other on a ladder

Who are the Working at Height Regulations Designed to Protect?


The working at height regulations are designed to protect both the employer and employees by making sure that all risks are identified and dealt with to prevent falls in the workplace.

Falling from height is one of the most common causes of injury or fatality in the workplace.

The HSE reported that from April 2022 to March 2023, 40 deaths at work were caused by falling from height. This is why it is so important that risk assessments are regularly completed to minimise risk and protect the workers from any hazards.

The regulations apply to all employers and people that control work at height including facility managers or building owners. Complying with the regulations is a legal requirement to ensure the workplace is always safe for workers.




There are many potential hazards found when working at height which is why a regular risk assessment must be performed to identify them and put certain measures into place to effectively reduce the risk.

These hazards can include:

  • Falling from height such as off a ladder, a roof or a fragile surface

  • Poorly maintained equipment

  • Dropping equipment

  • Incorrect use of equipment such as ladders, machinery

  • Unsecure scaffolding and fragile roofs

  • Lack of edge protection

  • Inadequate PPE

  • Lack of experience / training

The majority of hazards can be identified and then removed by implementing a safety measure. For example, equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that it always works correctly. PPE such as harnesses, hard hats and ropes should also always be provided to ensure workers are protected and safe while working at height.


Taking Precaution


When a task of working at height needs to be carried out, it is essential to take precautions to ensure the workers are safe all the way to the completion of the task. The work must be properly planned, supervised and performed by fully trained employees and the right equipment must also be used.

Here are a few suggestions for safety precautions that should be used when working at height:

  • Ensure operatives are trained

  • Minimise Time worked at height

  • Use fall arrest equipment such as Harnesses

  • Use fall prevention Equipment such as barriers

The precautions taken will depend on the type of task and proposed risks. Consider the height of the task, how long it will take and the condition of the surface being worked on.

Try to avoid working at height by seeing if the task can be moved to ground level such as repairs brought down, worked on and then taken back up to minimise the amount of time at height.

If working at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls and minimise risk by incorporating PPE and using safety equipment such as harnesses or scaffolding which is strong enough and inspected regularly.


Total Working at Height Incidents in 2023


Of 135 workers killed in work related accidents in 2022/23, 30% of these fatal injuries over the year were a result of falling from height.

Non fatal working at height injuries made up 8% of the total injuries in the workplace with 5000 people reporting a fall from height injury.

Fatal Injuries


Non-Fatal Injuries


The rate of fatal injury per 100,000 workers shows a downward trend over long term results meaning that the number of fatal injuries each year is slowly decreasing.

All injuries and accidents at work should be reported to RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) who releases an annual report to the HSE.


scaffolding high up on a new building

Equipment Included in the Working at Height Regulations 2005


In the HSE Working at Height Regulations 2005, the included equipment is split into two categories.

Collective Protective Equipment

Collective protective equipment is used to protect a group of workers and they are often put into place once to control the risk of many people.

This includes:

  • Guard-rails

  • Toe-boards

  • Barriers

  • Working platforms

  • Scaffolding

  • A net or airbag


Personal protective equipment

The personal protective equipment is used to protect each individual who needs to activate it themselves and receive appropriate training to ensure they know how to use it properly.

This includes:

  • Ladders

  • Ropes

  • Harnesses

  • Hard hats

  • Netting


Working at Height Permits


A working at height permit to work is not required by law but it is extremely useful to have as it is a way of controlling high risk activities in the workplace. It also ensures employers comply with the regulations to prioritise the health and safety of all workers when working at height.

Training, Responsibility and Equipment

A working at height permit ensures that only fully trained and competent workers take full responsibility when carrying out and supervising the high risk tasks. There must be a full plan in place as well as the right equipment used in guidance of the safe work practices and correct use of PPE.

Identify Hazards and Minimize Risks

Employers must assign a responsible worker to carry out risk assessments and identify the hazards before implementing the right safety measures to minimise the risk. An emergency response plan must also be created to outline the procedures of rescuing a worker in case of emergency while working at height.

The requirement of a working at height permit will depend on the site and the type of work being carried out. The permit provides a safe system of work which controls all hazards in the workplace.

a custom graph showing working at height fatalities from 2028

Working at Height Statistics

Working at height is still one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. This is why the Working at Height Regulations 2005 were put into place, to ensure workers are always safe by reducing the risk of workplace WAH accidents.


Reduction in Deaths from 2022 - 2023

The HSE data revealed that in 22/23, 30% of workplace fatalities were caused by fall from heights and this was up 5% compared to the previous year’s 25%.

Falls Under 2 Meters

It is reported that an estimated 35,000 people received injuries from falling at height with a large number from low level falls under 2 metres. Injuries from this height are very common as not enough safety measures are put into place due to the low perceived risk. It is vital that safety measures are implemented for any work at height above ground level as no height is too low to cause injury.

All employers must protect their workers by enforcing safety measures highlighted by regular risk assessments and employees must receive full training to protect themselves and others during the process of working at height tasks.


a link to a workign at height awareness course



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