Working at Height

The Importance of Proper Planning

Posted on: 11/02/2016   By: Lee Rance

A scaffolding company based in Dorset has been fined for safety failings following an incident on 17 July 2014 where an employee fell through a roof light.

The Company been contracted to erect access scaffold and perimeter handrails around the roof of a small industrial unit in Bridport.

The employee accessed the roof which was constructed of asbestos cement with intermittent roof lights when he fell through one of the roof lights. He suffered three fractures to his face, breaks in his left arm and wrist and dislocated fingers.


Photo credit: Robert Sharp (

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the incident was due to the work not being properly planned, or appropriately supervised which led to it being unsafe.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £10,000 with £5,628 costs.

Work at height is the biggest single cause of fatal and serious injury in the construction industry, particularly on smaller projects.

Over 60% of deaths during work at height involve falls:

  • from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms and roof edges; and
  • through fragile roofs or roof lights.

Before any working at height job is carried out the job needs to be properly planned. A risk assessment will need to be carried out by the company undertaking the working at height task and from this a decision on precautions required. This could involve using a harness or a fall arrest system e.g. safety net.

A method statement is a good way of recording the hazards involved in specific work at height tasks and communicating the risk and precautions required to all those involved in the work. The statement should be clear and not overcomplicated. Any equipment needed for safe working should be clearly identified and available before work starts.

Scaffolding should only be designed, erected, altered and dismantled by competent people and the work should always be carried out under the direction of a competent supervisor. This is a requirement of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

When planning a scaffold job, the user should supply relevant information to the scaffold contractor to ensure an accurate and proper design process is followed. Typically this information should include:

  • site location
  • period of time the scaffold is required to be in place
  • intended use
  • height and length and any critical dimensions which may affect the scaffold
  • number of boarded lifts
  • maximum working loads to be imposed and maximum number of people using the scaffold at any one time
  • type of access onto the scaffold e.g. staircase, ladder bay, external ladders
  • whether there is a requirement for sheeting, netting or brick guards
  • any specific requirements or provisions e.g. pedestrian walkway, restriction on tie locations, inclusion/provision for mechanical handling plant e.g. hoist)
  • nature of the ground conditions or supporting structure
  • information on the structure/building the scaffold will be erected against together with any relevant dimensions and drawings
  • any restrictions that may affect the erection, alteration or dismantling process

When a job is planned properly and all eventualities are taken into account then the risks to workers are greatly reduced.

Until next time.

Lee Rance