Preventing falls

Lesson Progress:

If work at height cannot be avoided, the best way to prevent people falling is by using physical barriers and equipment.

  • Use scaffolding, mobile access towers, MEWPs, podium steps or other proprietary edge protection systems.
  • The minimum height of the top guard-rail is 950 mm above the working platform.
  • Gaps between guard-rails and toe-boards on the working platform must not be greater than 470 mm.
  • Plastic barriers, netting or rope and pins are not suitable as edge protection as they are not rigid enough to prevent people from falling, unless they have been specifically designed for that purpose.
Correctly set up working platform with ladder access

Requirements for working at height

  • Safe access (such as a tower staircase or secured ladder) must be provided.
  • Edge protection (such as temporary guard-rails) must be put in place.
  • Remember that surfaces can become slippery in wet or frosty conditions.
  • If you are working on or near to a leading edge then measures (such as a physical barrier or safety net) should be installed. A harness and fall-arrest lanyard must only be used as a last resort.
  • Never work on any structure where there is no protection from falls.

Voids and holes

All voids and holes (such as those listed below) where a person could fall any distance and injure themselves must be protected.

  • Floor and roof openings.
  • Gaps between floor joists and roof trusses.
  • Lift shaft openings.
  • Service holes and risers.
  • Open inspection chambers and other voids.
  • Openings created during demolition.
  • Open excavations.
  • Openings created during site surveys.

All openings must be protected with secure barriers, covers, gates or doors, which are secured in position and display the relevant warning signs.

  • Never remove a protective cover unless authorised to do so and you are protected against falling whilst the cover is not in place.
  • If a hole, gap or void needs covering, you should report this to your supervisor straight away.
Properly constructed void protection, complete with proper signage
Scaffolding edge protection constructed around a void, complete with a scaffold tagging system