Working at Heights

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Applications for scaffolding permits are dealt with by highways at Lancashire County Council. They can be contacted by email at or by telephone on 08450530011.

The majority fatalities are caused by people falling through fragile materials (i.e. roofs and skylights), but also from window ledges by window cleaners not using fall arrest systems, i.e. a harness and lanyard attached to a fixed, secure anchorage point such as an eye bolt fixed into the structure of the wall. It should also be noted that the use of ladders accounts for a lot of injuries from working at height.


  • Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulation's 1992 (as amended)
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulation's 1998 (as amended) [PUWER]
  • Lifting Operation's and Lifting Equipment Regulation's 1998 (as amended) [LOLER]

What do I need to do?

Working at Height

In essence, you should avoid working at height in the first place if it is reasonably practicable to do so. A common activity involving working at height includes the need to replace electrical light bulbs. In such cases, techniques may include Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM), which would involve replacing all the electrical lights at height when only 90% of their life has been used. This then only exposes you to the risk of working at height once every 2–3 years, whereas if you were changing every light bulb as soon as they failed, you are exposing yourself (or your staff) to that risk on numerous occasions. Other techniques could involve using ‘cherry pickers’ which is a lot more stable and safer as there is less risk of falling out. However, operatives still need to wear and attach their lanyards to eye bolts in the working platform, as well as secure their tools, to prevent them falling out.

Any ladders used on site must be secured against unauthorised use by contractors, visitors, or untrained members of staff. They should also comply with either BS 2037 (Aluminium), BS 1129 (Wood) or BS EN 131 (which was the previous Class 2 rating). They should not be of a domestic rating (BS Class 3) due to their use in a commercial premises and reduced durability. You should also implement a monitoring system to ensure that they are regularly checked for safety and replaced when necessary. Any staff using steps and ladders must be properly trained in their use.

Window Cleaning

Where window cleaning cannot be carried out safely from inside the premises without the risk of falling out, or if scaffolding and cherry pickers are not reasonably practicable to use for this purpose, then you should follow the procedure stated below.

**Suitable provision should include either:

Fitting windows that can be cleaned safely from inside (e.g. fitting access equipment) or; providing suitably placed anchorage points for safety harnesses that conform to European Standard EN 795:1997 (these should only be installed by a competent contractor and tested in accordance with BS 7883:1997).

Restricting Window Openings

Windows in common parts, i.e. on staircases, and frequently in hotel rooms where children will be present where there is a drop of over 2 metres, can often pose a risk of falling. For example, if the window can open a long way there is a risk that someone may fall out. This is especially important where children can gain access from furniture near windows and climb out. In these circumstances, window restrictors are often used to prevent the window being opened too far. This will have to be assessed by using a risk assessment, as it may not be necessary to restrict all windows.

Further Guidance

  • Height Safe – Absolutely essential health and safety information for people who work at height (Leaflet 06/03) HSE
  • Safety in window cleaning using suspended and powered access equipment (HSE Information Sheet) (MISC611)
  • Safety in window cleaning using suspended rope access techniques (HSE Information Sheet) (MISC612)
  • Safety in window cleaning using portable ladders (HSE Information Sheet) (MISC613)
  • Use of fall protection equipment with mobile elevating work platforms (HSE Information Sheet) (MISC614)
  • Tower Scaffolds (HSE Construction Information Sheet) (CIS10(rev3))
  • Health and safety in roof work (HSG33) (1998) (Second edition) HSE (ISBN 0 7176 1425 5) (Priced 8.50)
  • Safety guide from the National Federation of Master Window and General Cleaners (NFMW&GC 2001)
  • Inspecting fall arrest equipment made from webbing or rope (INDG367) HSE