Understanding Hazards – Heights

Work at height means work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury, even if it is at or below ground level.

Falls from height are most common cause of fatal injury and the second most common cause of major injuries at work. 

You are working at height if you:

  • Work above ground/floor level;
  • Could fall from an edge, through and opening or fragile surface or;
  • Could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.

Work at height does not include a slip or a trip on the level, as a fall from height has to involve a fall from one level to a lower level, nor does it include walking up and down a permanent staircase in a building.


The main causes of falls from height are:

  • failing to recognise the risk.
  • not providing a safe system of work and making sure it’s followed.
  • not providing adequate information, training, instruction or supervision.
  • not using appropriate equipment properly – or sometimes not using it at all.
As a duty holder you must complete a working at height risk assessment for any work that meets the requirements of working at height.

If the work you’re responsible for includes working at height, you need to make sure that:

  • it’s properly planned and organised
  • the workers are competent
  • you’ve assessed the risks from working at height, chosen appropriate work equipment and made sure your staff use it
  • you’ve controlled the risks from fragile surfaces
  • equipment for working at height is properly inspected and maintained.

Avoid working at height wherever possible.  If you can’t avoid it:

  • use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls
  • use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall.