Working at Height Hierarchy of Control

Jason Godfrey, General Manager at Safesite explains the importance of following a hierarchy of control when assessing and completing working at height projects in the June issue of RCI Magazine

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), falls from height remain one of the most common causes of fatality and major injury in the UK.  Since 2001, an average of 50 people have died each year as a result of a fall from height and a further 8,702 have been seriously injured.

Ensuring optimum safety when working at height is a paramount concern. No contractor knowingly wants to put their own life and limbs at risk, and it would be fair to say that they are increasingly aware of how important it is to take the proper precautions and use the right equipment when working on rooftops.  

The HSE states that for every task that needs to be completed at height, roofing contractors need to assess the risk and put appropriate control measures in place. It is for this reason that the HSE recommend following a hierarchy of control. This takes them through a number of steps, with the aim being to avoid working at height accidents. Roofing contractors should only move up the hierarchy when they decide that the control is not practicable.


The Safesite Hierarchy of Control

The step by step guide begins by suggesting that contractors evaluate whether they can avoid working at height. This could be achieved by locating plant equipment at ground level rather than on the roof. 

If this isn’t possible, contractors should look to use an existing safe place to carry out the necessary work, where additional protective equipment is not necessary and there is no risk of falling due to preventative measures already being in place.

Continuing down the hierarchy, level 3 recommends using collective equipment, including guarded platforms or roof edge protection to prevent falls.

The final measure in preventing a fall is to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), typically fall restraint systems. These will include an anchor point and lanyard which can be adjusted or set to a fixed length to eliminate the risk of fall.

If contractors still haven’t found a solution through the above steps, they need to consider minimising the distance of a fall using passive fall protection systems. If a fall cannot be avoided, then the consequences of a fall must be mitigated. Collective equipment such as airbags can be placed underneath the work area to reduce the distance and severity of the fall.


Minimise fall distance with collective equipment

Level 6 focuses on minimising the consequences of a fall from by using passive fall arrest systems.  This differs to level 5, as collective equipment such as netting is used to soften the impact of the fall over greater heights and larger areas.  

If none of the above steps are possible, then contractors need to look at installing fall arrest systems. These products require a level of training, and should be considered as the last resort. Fall arrest systems generally consist of an anchor point, a lanyard and full body harness. If the contractor falls, the system arrests the force and decelerates them through a short distance.

The final level enforces that roofing contractors must have sufficient training and instruction to carry out the task competently. This training should include safe working practices and on the correct use of equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.


work at height instruction and training

By following these steps, contractors will often be able to eliminate the need to work at height, and if not, will at least be able to complete the required work safely.


Click here to view our hierarchy of control document.  For a Free Hierarchy of Control poster please contact Scott Wilderspin at Safesite on Tel: 01293 529977.

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