Falls from height account for the majority of fatal and serious accidents at work and since the regulations concerning falls at work were not considered sufficiently rigorous to deal with the known danger the Work at Height Regulations 2005 came into effect on 6th April 2005.  The regulations place more detailed and stringent requirements on employers and those controlling the work of others at height.

What types of workplace accidents are covered by the Work at Height Regulations 2005?

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 applies to all work at height where there is a risk of injury from falling. They also cover injuries from falling objects. 

Working at height is defined as being working in any place, including at or below ground level, and it also includes the circumstances when a person is moving between different parts of a workplace (except by a permanent staircase). It doesn't include slips or trips on the same ground or floor level, injuries sustained walking up and down permanent staircases.

There is now no distinction between an accident that occurs at height in a workplace and one that occurs on a construction site. Both are covered by the regulations. However, additional responsibilities are placed upon employers responsible for construction sites by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

The Health and Safety Executive, which monitors and enforces health and safety in the workplace, provides guidance on what constitutes a fall from height. It says that work at height includes:

    Working above the ground or floor level Any job where you might dally through an opening or fragile surface, or from an edge Working on ground level, but near an opening on the floor that you could fall through.

The responsibility of employers to avoid workplace accidents

There is a hierarchy of measures required of the duty holders:

    To avoid work at height where they can To use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where they cannot avoid work at height Where they cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of the fall.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require duty holders to properly plan and organise the work and take account of risk assessments under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Further and significantly they also require that all those involved are trained and competent and that the equipment used is inspected and a record is kept of the inspections.

Unusually for a work regulation, the weather has to be specifically considered and if the weather conditions endanger persons working at height, the work has to be postponed. This illustrates the nature of the ongoing obligation to risk assess and consider the safety of those working at height from start to finish.

The obvious risks from fragile surfaces have to be considered and avoided if possible. Precautions also have to be taken to prevent items falling and, if that cannot be done, steps taking to prevent a person being struck by a falling object, if needs be, by restricting access to such an area.

Employees or those working under someone else's control, have a duty to report any safety hazard to the duty holder and use safety equipment supplied.

Examples of workplace accidents which are covered by the Work at Height Regulations 2005

Specific examples:

    A shop employee using a ladder to change a light bulb A workman struck by debris being thrown from the roof of a building site A contractor injured while working on behalf of a building owner

However, the regulation doesn't cover certain accidents. Examples include:

    A police officer riding a horse A fisherman falling into the hold of his vessel An instructor or organiser of a work team building activity. Sports and other adventure activities at height are specifically excluded.

Compensation claim advice

If you or anyone you know has suffered an injury as a result of an accident at work, call us on 0800 0 224 224  for free, no obligation, legal advice. For further information, visit our accident at work claims page. Alternatively, you can find more information about health and safety in the workplace and the support we provide to injured workers on our For Every Worker Injured campaign page.


This information is intended as a general statement of the law and does not purport to render specific legal advice. Specific advice on a particular problem should always be sought.

Last updated 2018