Height

Working at Height

There are specific provisions relating to working at height. The basic rule is that work should not be carried out at height, if it is reasonably practicable to carry it out other than at height.  Where this is not reasonably practicable, there is a duty is to take care to prevent risk to persons working at height.

As a rule of thumb, working at height means working at more than two metres from ground level below. Greater precautions are required for work above this height. Significant precautions are also required for work undertaken below this height.

Working at height includes working in any place, whereby access or egress is other than by a staircase in a permanent place and work at or below ground level, from which, the employee could fall a distance such as to suffer personal injury if the measures required were not taken.

Working in height can arise in a range of contexts.  In the construction sector, it may involve working on or erecting scaffolding.  It includes working on any raised platform or using ladders, in construction, window cleaning, maintenance, working on vehicles at heights, working in certain parts of ships, working near cellars, erecting billboards using harnesses and working in mines.


Basic Requirements

Work may be undertaken at height, only if it is not reasonably practicable to carry it out other than from that height or otherwise in a safe manner from ground.  Necessary measures must be taken in order to minimise the distance from the ground / stable surface and the effect of any fall.

Work at height must be properly planned, supervised and carried out in a manner that is safe and without risk to health in so far as practicable. Employees must understand the risk assessment and the obligations, which they must comply with.  Appropriate plans should be made for emergencies.  Employees should be consulted and involved.

Working at height may be permissible, subject to favourable weather conditions. In this case, it may not be permissible in adverse weather conditions.  Work at height must not be undertaken where weather conditions place employees at risk.


Equipment

The employer has a duty to take care in the selection of equipment such as ladders, fixed ladders and stepladders.  The employer, in selecting the work equipment, must take a precautionary approach, taking account of the working conditions, the location, the distances of potential falls including the need for timely evacuation in an emergency.    The plant and equipment must have the requisite stability and robustness.  It must allow safe passage and egress.

Rails and other fall protection must be regularly inspected.  The workplace at height must be assessed from the perspective of stability.  Proper protective measures must be taken. Potential risks should be fully assessed. Permanent staircases may be necessary.  Gates and rails should be provided and allow access.


Ladders

Equipment such as ladders should only be used for access and regress where the risk assessment shows the use of other equipment is not justified because of low risk or short duration. Training is essential, particularly for workers who work alone or are using ladders for prolonged periods.

The HSA Guide makes provisions in relation to the use of ladders.  There must be secure handholds and supports.  The ladder must be secured to prevent slipping. The supporting structure must be of suitable strength and stability.  It must be fixed to prevent them from movement and slippage.  The guard rails must be of minimum height, density, and rail gap.

Ladders may only be used for access and egress where following a risk assessment, the use of other equipment is not justified because of low risk and short duration. Ladders must be used in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Where work is done from ladders, there must be secure handholds and supports at all times.  The work must be capable of being undertaken without stretching.  Overreaching is a significant source of accidents.


Platforms

Work platforms and supporting structures are subject to specific requirements.  They must be suitable, secure, and free from hazard. Scaffolding must be of good design, construction, and suitable material. There should be personal and group safeguards against falls such as nets, mats and inflatable devices.  Work on fragile surfaces should be avoided and, if not possible, undertaken subject to risk assessment.

There are requirements in respect of the stability and safety of raised platforms.  The suitability of the platform must be assessed from the outset. Where a person is working at height, guard rails should be protected and should be maintained.  Minimum guardrail heights apply.

The employer must ensure that the surface on which any supporting structure rests is sufficiently strong to support the platform, ladder, etc.  It must be sufficiently affixed.  In the case of a mobile structure, it must be sufficiently secured so that it is not capable of slipping or becoming destabilised

Rails and other fall protection must be regularly inspected.  The workplace at height must be assessed from the perspective of stability.  Proper protective measures must be taken. Potential risks should be fully assessed. Permanent staircases may be necessary.  Gates and rails should be provided and allow access.


Scaffolding I

There are specific duties regarding scaffolding.  The selection of scaffolding should be undertaken by trained persons in accordance with the appropriate skills certification scheme.  Scaffolding must be erected in accordance with recognised configurations approved by the National Standards Board.

Group and personal safeguards which protect persons from falls should be provided as required.  It may include nets, inflated devices, restraints and other systems.  Any such systems must themselves be secured. Where a person is working at height, guard rails should be protected and should be maintained.

Raised areas must be railed, and the rails must be checked periodically.  The stability of platforms, parapets, scaffolding and rails must be ensured. Permanent arrangements may be appropriate in lieu of prolonged temporary scaffolding.


Scaffolding II

Care must be taken to reduce the risk from falling objects.  Where employees are adjacent to an area where there is a risk of falling, there should be measures to restrict employees from entering.  The area should be indicated. Protective devices such as hard hats should be provided.

Where falling objects are a risk, measures should be taken to ensure that the workplace is clear of loose materials.  Upward curving edges at higher levels may prevent material falling to lower levels.

Where employees are near an area where there is a danger of falling objects, they must be present only in so far as strictly necessary that they are there.  Sufficient notices must be provided. Regular inspections must be undertaken.


References and Sources

Irish Books

Safety, Health and Welfare and at Work Law in Ireland 2nd Ed 2008 Byrne Ch 23

Safety & Health Acts Consolidated & Annotated       2013   Byrne

Health, Safety & Welfare Law in Ireland        2012   Kinsella Ch. 5

Health & Safety: Law and practice 2007 Shannon

Health & Safety at Work   1998 Stranks Ch.6

Civil Liability for Industrial Accidents 1993 While

Websites

The Health and Safety Authority  www.hsa.ie

Health and Safety Executive (UK) www.hse.gov.uk

UK Books

Tolleys Health and safety at work, 2017 29th ed Bamber,

Corporate liability: work related deaths and criminal prosecutions 3rd ed. Author FORLIN, G.

Health and safety at work: European and comparative perspective Author ALES, E., ed.

Health and Safety Law 5th Ed 2005 Stranks

Principles of Health and Safety at Work (8th ed) Holt, Allan St. John; Allen, Jim;

The Law of Health and Safety at Work 2014/15 (23rd ed) Moore, Rachel; Winter, Hazel;

Statutes

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 370 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 70 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 36 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 445 of 2012)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 176 of 2010)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 732 of 2007)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007)