You may be required to work at height in a variety of circumstances, whether in a port or dock, on board a vessel, at an airport, or at a trader’s premises or other unfamiliar location. The risks are the same and the necessary precautions must be taken. If you are not satisfied that you can work safely, then you should not do so until you are satisfied that appropriate equipment or precautions are in place.

1. What is work at height?

Work at height means work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, you could fall and injure yourself.

If you:

Examples of work at height include:

2. What precautions do I need to take?

Remember: work at height might be a one-off, or part of your routine. Make sure you identify all tasks which require work at height, so you can carry them out safely. The key to preventing injury if you have to work at height is to carry out a risk assessment, so you can take the right precautions.

Risk assessments and safe working practices should be maintained for all activities that involve working at heights.

3. Can you avoid working at height?

In some circumstances, it may be impossible to avoid working at height. However, cargo should always be examined and sampled in a suitable area. This usually means that the goods should be removed from the container or road vehicle and placed on the ground in a flat area, thus avoiding the need to work at height.

If you are working in an unfamiliar location or situation, you should consider the risks carefully and not proceed with the examination and sampling until you are sure it is safe to do so.

4. Can you prevent a fall?

Yes, you can by:

Do not use improvised methods to gain access — such as a pallet on a fork-lift truck.

When working on the top of road or rail tankers using the access fitted to the vehicle, always check that:

Avoid using loose or unsupported ladders or stepladders where possible.

Consider carefully how you are going to carry sampling equipment and take the sample.

5. Can you minimise the consequences of a fall?

You must first try to avoid and then prevent a fall before resorting to measures that will only minimise or limit the consequences.

6. What other measures do you need to take to reduce the risk of a fall?

When using any equipment for work at height, you also need to make sure that:

The normal use of ladders or step ladders does not provide measures which either prevent falls or minimise the consequences. So, you must be able to show that it was not reasonable to select alternative equipment because the task is low risk and short duration.

7. Have you identified whether there are any fragile surfaces?

You need to be particularly aware of any fragile materials in, or near, the area where you are working at height as they add to the risk. A fragile surface would be liable to break if anyone worked on it or fell onto it. Common examples include fibre and asbestos cement roof sheets and many skylights, but also bridged materials in silos.

Make sure that you:

8. Are there any other risks involved in working at heights?

Remember that working at heights can also add to other risks:

The guidance contained in this section intended to serve as a general reminder of the risks that are sometimes encountered during the examination and sampling procedure and of the safety equipment that you should use and precautions that you should take.
You must refer to the legislation and the guidance of your national administration for more information.

Version Date Changes
1.0 12.10.2012 First version
1.1 30.01.2020 Update - text revision, new text in paragraphs 4 and 5