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Working at height – construction sites

When working on a construction site, work at height is unavoidable. In general, it’s working either from a ladder, an item of mobile plant (a scissor lift) or a scaffold.

Employers are responsible for providing suitable work equipment and training staff to use it.  Checking equipment before use is always a good idea and in fact very good working practice.

So, what are we talking about?

Small Plant

This includes hop-ups (a small step about 900mm long by 450mm wide by 450mm high), ladders, step- ladders, podium platforms and alloy towers. Please note that additional training of a PASMA, Prefabricated Access Suppliers and Manufacturers Association, card is required for alloy towers. Internal training to use the other equipment would be sufficient to ensure your staff know how to use it and keep safe.


Mobile Elevated Work Platforms consist of either scissor lifts (that go up and down) or ‘Cherry Pickers’ which have a mobile basket on a boom and can provide more ‘fluid’ access arrangements.  When using this equipment, you will need to go to a specialist trainer to obtain an International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) card for the operator.  We can direct you to an appropriate provider for this training.

The use of T&F (tube and fitting) or system scaffold.

Scaffold schemes would normally be erected by a specialist subcontractor registered to CISRS, Construction Industry Scaffolder’s Record Scheme. Upon erection, they will provide you with an erection certificate (if over 2m high) and then a competent person (usually the scaffolder) will need to check the scaffold every seven days or after an event that could affect its stability, such as high winds or contact with vehicles.  It is not essential, but seen as a good idea, if the scaffold is ‘Scaff Tagged’. This is a card that is usually fixed to the scaffold near the access ladder to show, when and who, last inspected it.  The benefit of this card is that if it is not fit for purpose, anyone can pull the card from the holder and it will show “Do Not Use” to warn persons not to use the scaffold as it may be unsafe.

It is important to instruct the workforce that they are not allowed to alter the scaffold in any shape or form, this must be carried out by the scaffolders. If there are any issues with the scaffold, please instruct your personnel to inform their supervisor immediately to get it rectified.

Workers can then use the ladders to climb the lift heights, access the scaffold through spring loaded gates and then use the scaffold from the boarded platform.

Think of your working at height equipment as being part of your toolkit; it needs to be fit for purpose, someone needs to be trained to use it and it must be checked to ensure that it is in good order before using it.  Part of this process would be to have a record system to prove that your equipment is in good order before use. (e.g. ladder log records).

Items used when working at height will always be a focus for any of our construction inspections to ensure you’re providing the necessary, safe access for your personnel.


Should you need any help with regards to working at height equipment, please get in touch with me on 01302 341 344.

By Richard Wadkin CMIOSH IMaPsRisk Consultant

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