General Application Regulations requires employers to carry out a risk assessment for all work conducted at height and to put in place arrangements for:
- Eliminating or minimizing risks from working at height;
- Safe systems of work for organizing and performing work at height;
- Safe systems for selecting suitable work equipment to perform work at height; and
- Safe systems for protecting people from the consequences of work at height.
The risk assessment and the action taken should be proportionate to the harm that could occur if no action was taken. It should include a careful examination of what harm could be caused from working at height with a view to taking the necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of this harm occurring, either through avoiding the activity or, where this is not reasonably practicable, by carrying it out in a safe manner using the appropriate work equipment.
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Employers and self-employed persons must ensure that:
Any work at height performed in their undertaking or by their employees on any other site or premises, and the equipment provided for such work, complies with the requirements of Part 4 of the General Application Regulations and does not put others at risk, e.g. members of the public;
If they send workers to another site, that they are not at risk from working at height on that site. All employers at the site must co-operate to make sure employees are not asked to do tasks where there is inadequate protection; and
they consult their employees on matters relating to safety and health with respect to work at height and, where appropriate, in the development of risk assessments for work at height.
Wherever there are multiple contractors, a written formalized way of proceeding should be agreed so that it is clear who is responsible for particular aspects of the work at height. Every contractor involved with the site will have duties under safety and health legislation, but the extent of the responsibilities will depend on the circumstances and are best agreed in writing before the work commences.
Further guidance can be obtained from the HSE publication Use of Contractors – A Joint Responsibility (INDG368).
Those who provide equipment for use at work but do not control its use or the premises where it will be used should still ensure that the work equipment complies with Part 4 of the General Application Regulations to the extent that their control allows. The Regulations require that all the risks of the work be managed by the relevant people to ensure safety.
It is vital that this is communicated to all those involved on multi-occupied sites. For example, where a scaffolding hire company delivers the equipment to a site and erects it on behalf of the user, the hire company must ensure that it has been erected in accordance with the Regulations.
The ongoing maintenance, inspection and recording requirements may, however, fall on the employer in control of those using the scaffold.
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Employees using their own equipment for work at height
General Application Regulations also apply to personally owned equipment used for work at height. Employers need to ensure that such equipment is checked and assessed as being suitable. This is particularly important where an employee brings his or her own tools onto the site and where the employee chooses to use his or her own equipment for work at height (e.g. safety harnesses).
The employer needs to establish who will be using such equipment (especially where it might be
shared) and that the users are clear as to how to use it. The employer should also ensure that safe loading is adhered to and that it is compatible with other safety equipment, such as anchor points. An employer should ensure that any personally owned tools used by their employees are appropriate for the task, are in good condition and can comply with the safety and health management controls identified in any risk assessment.
The responsibility for the safe application and use of personally owned tools and equipment cannot be derogated to employees carrying out the work.