MEL Health and Safety Consultants

Legal Restrictions Tightened for Work at Height

The Golden Rules for Keeping Work Safe

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 came into force on 6th April 2005.


The main points of the Regulations are as follows:


Working at height is any height where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury (the 2 metre rule has long been revoked).


Managing working at height requires the use of a hierarchy of controls:

  • Avoid working at height where possible;
  • Use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height i.e. collective fall prevention such as guard rails; and

Where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur i.e. collective fall arrest equipment such as nets as apposed to harnesses.


The Golden Rules

  • All work at height must be properly planned and organised
  • All work at height must take account of weather conditions that could endanger health and safety.
  • Those involved in working at height must be trained and competent.
  • The place where working at height is undertaken must be safe.
  • Equipment used for working at height must be properly inspected.
  • The risks from fragile surfaces must be properly controlled
  • The risks from falling objects must be properly controlled

Edge protection


Edge protection must be set at:

  • Top guardrail - minimum 950mm (previously 910mm) 
  • Toe board of adequate height (previously 150mm) 
  • Intermediate guardrail - no gap is to exceed 470mm



Depending on the complexity of the scaffolding, an assembly, use and dismantling plan shall be drawn up by a competent person.


Strength and stability calculations shall be carried out unless:

  • a note of the calculations, covering the structural arrangements contemplated is available; or
  • it is assembled in conformity with a generally recognised standard configuration

It must be noted that the scaffolding standard BS 5973 no longer exists and has been replaced by BSEN: 12811


Working platforms must be inspected before first use and at regular intervals not exceeding seven days.


Fall arrest equipment


Fall arrest equipment must be inspected before first use and then at regular intervals and at each time that exceptional circumstances which are liable to jeopardise the safety of the work equipment have occurred.