Accident Claims for breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005
In the UK, the most common cause of deaths in the workplace is from falls from a height. These types of accident can cause serious injuries which lead to employees needing to take time off work to recover. Some are never fully fit again. When a person suffers an injury as a result of a fall from height in the workplace, they may be entitled to claim compensation against their employer.
For a claim to be made, it must be demonstrated that the employer breached their legal duty of care to their workforce. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 set out the laws that employers must abide by to ensure the safety of the working environment for their staff and visitors to the premises.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 was established to offer protection to people who are required to work at heights in their job. The Regulations set out a number of requirements that employers must follow to ensure that workers are safe when carrying out any tasks at height.
What is the definition of ‘work at height’?
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 defines ‘work at height’ as being:
“(a) work in any place, including a place at or below ground level; and
(b) obtaining access to or egress from such place while at work, except by a staircase in a permanent workplace, where, if measures required by these Regulations were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
There is no minimum height set by the Regulations, and so there is no minimum limit that a worker must reach in order to be considered as working at height. This means that the Regulations offer the same protection to an employee who is using a step-ladder as they do a worker who is hundreds of feet above ground-level.
The Regulations set out a number of responsibilities that employers must meet in order to be compliant with the law. This includes the employer’s responsibility to avoid asking staff to work at height if it is reasonably appropriate. If it is unavoidable for staff to work at heights, the employer is required to complete a thorough risk assessment before the work being initiated. What is more, the work at height must also be supervised and must only begin after full planning has been carried out.
Other responsibilities that are placed on an employer include:
- The need to ensure that staff can enter and leave the place of work safely
- Safety measures including safety rails and signage should be placed in the workplace where necessary
- PPE should be supplied, stored and maintained as per Regulations
- Adequate training should be given to all employees who are required to work at heights
- Trainee staff must be supervised when working at heights
Protection Against Falling Objects
The Regulations also set out processes that must be followed to protect workers and others from falling objects. All employers are legally required to assess the risk of potential falling objects, and appropriate action should be taken to prevent accidents. This includes making sure no tipping or throwing of objects from height can cause harm to those below.
The Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007
In 2007, an amendment was made to the Regulations which primarily focused on climbing and caving, both in professional and private instances. The amendment sets out the legislation regarding the safe number of ropes that should be used in these activities and these laws apply to recreational activities as well as workplace undertakings.