A Brief Summary Of The Working At Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR)

Falling from a height is one of the main causes of workplace fatalities and injuries, so the Working at Height Regulations 2005 were introduced to provide the guidance needed to avoid injury or even death. These regulations are mandatory for all employees and employers who work at height, and they are enforceable by law.

Although it is important for both employers and employees to act sensibly and use common sense when working at height, there are some situations where strict regulations must be adhered to. If you are an employer, contractor or business owner responsible for the control of working at height, these regulations will apply to you.

The main points of the Working at Height Regulations are designed to ensure that all work at height is properly supervised, planned and completed by experienced people. There are various rules which must be followed, although the following are the most important to begin with:

  1. Avoid working at height wherever possible.
  2. If working at height is necessary, a risk assessment is required which assesses the type of risks involved and the equipment needed to eliminate these risks.
  3. Where risks cannot be eliminated, the distance and consequences of a fall must be minimised as much as possible.


What Are The Risks Of Working At Height?

There are many workplace environments that require employees to work at height, which means there are a wide variety of potential risks. The most common causes of workplace fatalities or injury occur within the construction, warehousing, farming and factory-based industries, although accidents can occur in almost any situation involving roof cleaning or repair work.

Falls from a roof is considered high risk, especially those involving fragile roofs and roof lights. WAHR includes detailed safe working practices for working on fragile surfaces such as corroded metal sheets, glass, chipboard, slates, tiles and fibre cement sheets. A fall from a height could result in minor injuries to broken bones and even death, so it is important to adhere to all regulations.

What Height Is Officially Classed As Working At Height?

Working at height is simply a term used to describe a situation where an employee is required to work at a height where a serious injury or death could occur if safety precautions are not followed. WAHR defines working at height as any activity where there is a risk of an individual falling from one level to the next. This includes those working off the ground and also those who are working on the ground near an opening.


Do You Need Training To Work At Height?

Employers are required to ensure only competent people are engaged in activities where working from height is required. This means workers should have the experience, knowledge and skills required to complete the task safely. Alternatively, if they are being trained to work at height, they must be supervised by a competent person.

For low-risk tasks which involve using a ladder for less than 30 minutes, the regulations state that simple instructions on how to operate the ladder safely is sufficient training. However, for longer tasks with a higher level of risk, such as working within a complex scaffolding setup, it will be
necessary to ensure workers complete formal training in line with the approved code of practice. This will result in a certificate that will demonstrate the worker’s competence to complete the task.


What Are Employers’ Responsibilities When Working At Height?

Employers must always ensure that everyone within their employment is protected, this includes both those working at height and those who are on the ground. This means personal protective equipment must be provided to those at height, as well as those who may be hurt from falling objects. Personal protective equipment is a term used to describe equipment that relies upon the individual using it to be effective, for example, correctly connecting a safety harness or wearing a hard hat.

WAHR also requires employers to provide collective equipment, which is a term used to describe equipment that does not require the person involved to act for it to become effective. For example, permanent safety rails and temporary guard rails.

An employer must appoint a competent person who is responsible for ensuring the safety of all equipment. Any equipment which is damaged or worn could lead to a dangerous situation, so the competent person must complete regular inspections, including following accidental damage or adverse weather conditions. This includes all types of PPE, in addition to working platforms, guard rails, barriers and scaffolding.

The WAHR regulations require employers to keep records of these inspections, with any platform requiring employees to work at heights of more than 2 metres subject to strict rules. This includes inspections after any platform is assembled, after any event which could impact stability, or at least once every seven days.

The regulations also state that employers must also provide all necessary training for employees, including courses relating to safety whilst working at height and training on how to correctly use the specific equipment provided.


What Are Working At Height Certificates And How Long Do They Last?

There are a variety of courses available which provide working at height certificates, including skills-based and awareness-based courses. Although many certificates relating to safety awareness have no legal expiry date, those which are skill-based or linked to medical checks will expire on a certain date. The expiry date will depend on the course provider; however, the specific date will always be displayed on the certificate. It is worth noting that H.S.E. recommends retraining every five years. This is just a recommendation, not a regulation, and should be in line with the company policy.


Practical Tips For Working At Height


  1. Where it is not possible to avoid working from height, you should prevent falls by using the right type of equipment.
  2. Minimise the distance of potential falls and the consequences by always using the right equipment.
  3. Ensure all workers are able to reach the working position safely.
  4. Regularly check and maintain all equipment to ensure it is suitable for work at height.
  5. Always take precautions if you are working on or near a fragile surface.
  6. Before beginning work, you should consider the emergency rescue and evacuation procedures and ensure workers know what they should do.
  7. If there are objects which could fall, take action to prevent the risk of any injury through exclusion zones or mesh which is attached to the scaffolding.
  8. Ensure employees are able to quickly report any potential safety hazards.
  9. Workers must be alerted to potential hazards with clear and prominent notices, such as fragile surfaces.



  1. Don’t work from height where it is possible to complete the task from the ground.
  2. Don’t overreach or overload whilst working at height.
  3. Never work in adverse weather conditions, as worker safety could be compromised.


Although the Work at Height Regulations are complex, one of the best ways to minimise the risks of death or injury is to ensure that everyone is compliant with the latest legislation. Many businesses choose to seek external advice to ensure their systems, equipment and training is fit for their purpose. To find out more about how we can help your business, please contact our experienced and knowledgeable team today.

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