New Guidelines On Falls From Height In Construction


New Guidelines On Falls From Height In Construction

All people working at height are covered by the 2005 Regulation but by far the biggest application of this legislation is in the Construction sector.

HSE have issued new guidance on their website, including new FAQs. To summarise the main points, companies (not just building firms, also including the self employed and facilities managers) must plan and organise the work to be done at height, ensuring that those who work are competent.

They must assess the risks, and obtain and employ the right equipment as well as inspecting and maintaining it before use.

Special care must be taken around fragile surfaces like glass skylights or polycarbonate roofs.

Wherever possible, try to do the work on the ground and transport it up to the worksite. If that is not feasible, look for ways to minimize the distance that people might fall, or lessen the consequences (using nets or airbags, for example).


The Regulations do not ban the use of ladders, but they say they should only be used for short-duration, low-risk work and where better access means are not possible. HSE has a ladder trade-in scheme that aims to remove unsafe ladders from the workplace.

Working platforms

This means not just traditional boarded platforms with rails, but also roofs etc. They need handrails, intermediate rails below them, and toe boards. See the Regulations for details, but the minimum handrail height in the Construction trade is 950mm.


There are a set of regulations specifically applying to Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs): according to where they are, who is supplying them, any traffic concerns, restraint arrangements, etc.

There is no hard and fast rule as to when the Regulations apply if the heights are low; rather HSE advocates a sensible approach. If the height is small, the risk trivial and it is not ‘reasonably practical to take precautions’ then only instruction and training are needed.

Competent Persons

Guidelines and rules like these often talk about a ‘competent person’, but who is that? In the absence of a legal definition, an outline has been proposed and it describes a person who has enough training and experience to carry out their duties; who understands the hazards; can spot any inadequacy or lack of equipment and what that entails in safety terms; and finally who can say with some authority what needs to be done to remedy the problem.

Doubtless we would all like to employ a workforce consisting exclusively of such paragons, but we are not so blessed. However that is the role model and the industry has to train and manage people to comply as far as possible with the ideal.

Collective Measures

The authorities stress the need to ensure that the most emphasis is given to Collective Measures: those that protect everyone, such as guardrails and platforms. These should take priority over Individual Measures that provide just personal protection to an individual.

CDM Co-ordinators

The 2007 CDM Regulations brought in the concept of CDM Co-ordinators

(CDM-Cs). These are required on ‘notifiable projects’ of over 30 days or 500 man-hours planned length. They coordinate all the parties on site and ensure the designers have avoided foreseeable risks.

An efficient CDM-C can be a positive aid to principal contractors in taking the lead in the intricacies of construction safety, including the planning and overseeing of Work at Height.

Leading Health and Safety advisors, McCormack Benson Health & Safety, are expert CDM consultants whose construction-trained inspectors will take a hands-on approach and will help you to be compliant and to minimize accidents.