I’m a manager, how do I judge if someone is competent to work at height?
You should make sure that people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience are employed to perform the task, or, if they are being trained, that they work under the supervision of somebody competent to do it.
In the case of low-risk, short duration tasks involving ladders, competence requirements may be no more than making sure employees receive instruction on how to use the equipment safely (eg how to tie a ladder properly) and appropriate training. Training often takes place on the job, it does not always take place in a classroom.
When a more technical level of competence is required, for example drawing up a plan for assembling a complex scaffold, existing training and certification schemes drawn up by trade associations and industry is one way to help demonstrate competence.
How do I decide ladders are sufficient for the work task?
The law says that ladders can be used for working at height when a risk assessment has shown that using equipment offering a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered.
Short duration is not the deciding factor in establishing whether an activity is acceptable or not – you should have first considered the risk. As a guide, if your task would require staying up a leaning ladder or stepladder for more than 30 minutes at a time, it is recommended that you consider alternative equipment.
You should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely, eg where the ladder will be level and stable, and where its reasonably practicable to do so, the ladder can be secured.
I am a company director, what do I need to know about the Working at Height Regulations?
The Regulations apply to all work at height, where there is risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury. They place duties on employers, and those who control any work at height activity (such as facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).
As part of the Regulations, you must ensure:
- all work at height is properly planned and organised
- those involved in work at height are competent
- the risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used
- the risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed
the equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained
What is the difference between “collective” and “personal” fall protection?
Collective protection is equipment that does not require the person working at height to act to be effective. Examples are permanent or temporary guardrails, scissor lifts and tower scaffolds.Personal protection is equipment that requires the individual to act to be effective. An example is putting on a safety harness correctly and connecting it, via an energy-absorbing lanyard, to a suitable anchor point.