The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has overhauled its guidance for working at height, setting out in clear, simple terms what to do and what not to do – and debunking common myths that can confuse and mislead employers.
Key changes include:
- providing simple advice about do’s and don’ts when working at height to ensure people are clear on what the law requires
- busting some of the persistent myths about health and safety law, such as the banning of ladders when they can still be used
- offering targeted advice to helping business in different sectors manage serious risks sensibly and proportionately
- helping workers to be clearer about their own responsibilities for working safely.
How do you decide if someone is ‘competent’ to work at height?
You should make sure that people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience are employed to perform the task, or, if they are being trained, that they work under the supervision of somebody competent to do it.
In the case of low-risk, short duration tasks involving ladders, competence requirements may be no more than making sure employees receive instruction on how to use the equipment safely (eg how to tie a ladder properly) and appropriate training. Training often takes place on the job, it does not always take place in a classroom.
When a more technical level of competence is required, for example drawing up a plan for assembling a complex scaffold, existing training and certification schemes drawn up by trade associations and industry is one way to help demonstrate competence.