Working at height

Falls from height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. Common cases include falls from leading edges, roofs, from ladders and through fragile surfaces.

Image reads Take Heights Seriously. Find out more at Take heights seriously

HSENI has launched a campaign reminding the construction industry about the importance of using suitable access equipment, working platforms and edge protection when working at height.

Sadly since 2020, falls have killed nine workers carrying out construction work at height in Northern Ireland.

It is essential, for those in control of work at height, to make sure work is properly planned supervised and carried out by competent people with the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. If in doubt seek advice from a competent health and safety professional as to how to carry the work out safely.


Work at Height Regulations (NI) 2005

It is essential for clients, employers, self-builders, principal contractors and sub-contractors, and any person that controls the work of others (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height), to be fully up-to-date with the requirements of the Work at Height Regulations (NI) 2005 and appropriate guidance.


Falls from height incidents can be prevented by:

  • recognising the problem
  • preparing a safe system of work and implementing it
  • making sure the workforce are trained and supervised


When planning work at height it is essential to select the appropriate piece of work equipment and not just select from what the company has available.

Make sure work equipment is well maintained.

What do I have to do?

You must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people with the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. You must use the right type of equipment for working at height.

Take a sensible approach when considering precautions. Low-risk, relatively straightforward tasks will require less effort when it comes to planning and there may be some low-risk situations where common sense tells you no particular precautions are necessary.

Control measures

First assess the risks. Factors to weigh up include the height of the task, the duration and frequency, and the condition of the surface being worked on.

Before working at height work through these simple steps:

  • avoid work at height where it's reasonably practicable to do so
  • where work at height cannot be easily avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment
  • minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated

For each step, always consider measures that protect everyone at risk (collective protection) before measures that only protect the individual (personal protection).

Collective protection is equipment that does not require the person working at height to act for it to be effective. Examples are external scaffolding, permanent or temporary guardrails, scissor lifts/cherry pickers and tower scaffolds.

Personal protection is equipment that requires the individual to act for it to be effective. An example is putting on a safety harness correctly and connecting it, with an energy-absorbing lanyard, to a suitable anchor point.

Dos and don’ts of working at height


  • as much work as possible from the ground
  • ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height
  • ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly
  • take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
  • provide protection from falling objects
  • consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures


  • overload ladders – consider the equipment or materials that workers are carrying before working at height. Check the pictogram or label on the ladder for information
  • overreach on ladders or stepladders
  • rest a ladder against weak upper surfaces, e.g. glazing or plastic gutters
  • use ladders or stepladders for strenuous or heavy tasks, only use them for light work of short duration (a maximum of 30 minutes at a time)
  • let anyone who is not competent (who doesn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job) work at height


Remember - collective fall prevention measures have priority over personal protection measures.


Key Legislation

Please note that this link is to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.