Working at Height

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Avoid roof work or work at height maintaining buildings. Do as much as you can from the ground e.g. use extending equipment to clear gutters.

Avoid doing the work yourself. Use a professional contractor with the knowledge, skills, equipment and experience to safely work at height on buildings.

If you do need to work at height, make sure the work is planned and carried out by people with the right training and the safest equipment for the job. For example, trained and experienced people using a mobile elevating work platfor or scaffold.

DO NOT be tempted to use the wrong equipment. Being lifted on the forks or bucket of a telehandler is ILLEGAL!

Make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Eg. Overhead power lines, uneven floors, soft ground

Be safe – make sure all equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job and checked regularly

If you are using a ladder follow the 1 in 4 rule (i.e. 1 unit out for every 4 units up)

ALWAYS maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder to ensure stability

Make sure you don’t overload or overreach when working at height

Every year, thousands of farm workers are injured and too many die in avoidable farming accidents. Despite signs that behavioural change is starting to happen in the industry, agriculture continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.

The risk of falling from height or being struck by a falling object account for nearly 30% of all fatalities in agriculture, which only demonstrates that ‘Falls’ must remain high on the list of farming risks to be managed.
Any fall from height can lead to long term injuries and make it difficult to keep on farming. Most accidents of this type happen either because the work is not properly planned, the risks are not recognised, proper precautions are not taken, or the equipment used is either defective, not appropriate, or used incorrectly.
There is a safety hierarchy (Avoid – Plan – Prevent – Train) that you should follow when carrying out work at height:
  • Avoid work at height if at all possible
  • Where that is not possible and work at height is required, plan the task properly, using safe equipment. Consider whether you need specialist contractors to carry out the work.
  • Remember that preventing falls is better than mitigating against a fall, so given a choice between the two, good edge protection is generally preferable to soft landing systems (air bags / bales for example).
  • Collective measures such as edge protection / netting etc. are generally preferable to personal measures such as harnesses.
  • Provide training for any employees who are required to work at height


Make sure they are not bent or damaged,
Why? The ladder could buckle or collapse.
Ensure they are not missing, worn or damaged
Why? The ladder could slip
Are they bent, worn, missing or loose? 
Why? They could break and user could fall
Locking mechanisms
Are they bent? Are the fixings worn or damaged? 
Why? The ladder could collapse. Ensure any locking bars are engaged.
Is it split or buckled in any way?
Why? The ladder could become unstable or collapse.
Steps or treads on stepladders
Are they contaminated, are the fixings tight?
Why? If they are contaminated they could be slippery; if the fixings are loose, they could collapse.
  • Do NOT use the ladder if you spot any of these defects, or other old or worn ladders. Remove them from use/notify your employer.
  • Discuss the risks regularly with the whole team, and train everyone in safe working methods, and emergency procedures.
  • Make sure everyone carries a mobile phone with them and have the relevant emergency information and emergency contact numbers programmed into them. Keep the mobile phone with you.

Before starting the task STOP and THINK…

  • Can working at height be AVOIDED?
  • If the task requires you staying up a leaning ladder or stepladder for more than 30 minutes at a time, you should be using alternative equipment.
  • Ensure only those workers that are authorised and familiar with the safe operation of the equipment or those undergoing supervised training are allowed to use the ladders or step-ladders.
  • Choose the correct ladder for the task.  Consider its weight capacity and its height.   Many injuries occur due to ladders being too short for a specific task, and instead of selecting a new ladder for the job, workers place the ladder on something to extend its reach or stand on the top rung to gain the necessary height.

Using ladders correctly

  • Only use ladders/step-ladders for what the manufacturer intended it to be used for.
  • Never alter or try to lengthen the ladder.
  • Never stand ladders on moveable objects, such as pallets, bricks, lift trucks, tower scaffolds, excavator buckets, vans, or mobile elevating work platforms.
  • Do not place a ladder on a traffic route or in front of a door unless they have been blocked off.
  • Watch out for overhead power lines.
  • Make sure the ladder is placed on firm, level ground.
  • Ensure the ladder is tied or footed to prevent it slipping.
  • Follow the 1 in 4 rule (i.e. 1 unit out for every 4 units up).
  • Avoid working on ladders in windy weather.
  • Ensure the all four feet of a stepladder are in contact with the ground.
  • Position the stepladder to face the work activity and not side on.
  • Only carry light tools and or materials – use a tool belt.
  • Do not overreach – think about it. It is much safer to get off the ladder/stepladder, move it, and then climb back up.
  • ALWAYS maintain 3 points of contact to ensure stability.


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dan parrWorking at Height