You will find that many school staff think that they never ‘work at height’. However, we know that there are many who will undertake tasks such as putting up of displays,  erecting AV equipment, cleaning ventilation filters, and simple maintenance tasks such as changing lightbulbs.

By definition, in The Work at Height Regulations, ‘work at height’ means work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. Even situations where a member of staff is standing on the bottom step of a set of step ladders would be classed as working at height, as it could result in a fall from one level to a lower level.

Falls from height remain the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of major injury. For this reason, it remains a top priority area for Health and Safety Inspectors, and schools are not immune!

Key considerations :

Before your staff undertake any work at height, ask yourself if they need to do it this way. Work at height should be avoided wherever possible. Failing that, all work at height should be properly planned and organised, with those involved competent for the task. Employees should be trained or instructed in safe ways of working at height, from completing a simple e-learning training module in ‘work at height’ on Safety Cloud, to training in your safe systems of work for particular equipment. Any equipment used for work at height needs to be suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, and maintained and checked regularly. 

Practical Top Tips for Employees using Ladders:

A third of all reported fall-from-height accidents involve ladders. On average, this accounts for 14 deaths and 1,200 major injuries to workers every year. Many of these injuries are caused by inappropriate or incorrect use of the equipment – which can be easily avoided using the following steps.

  1. Type of ladder – ladders used in the school environment should conform to Class EN131 (Professional) or Class 1 (Industrial).  Airline style ladders and A-frame ladders should be used in preference to single section ladders wherever possible. Make sure the ladder can be positioned on level ground and that it is long enough for the task. 
  2. Visually check the ladder – make sure it is stable by ensuring that all the feet are present and when gripped and moved lightly that it does not wobble. Check that the rungs or steps are undamaged and clean. 
  3. PPE – check the tread on shoes to ensure that they are in good condition and free from oil or soil contamination. 
  4. Consider the environment – do not use a ladder in high winds. Also, be aware of your surroundings – there may be other hazards such as swing doors (which should be locked or guarded off), moving vehicles or pedestrians.
  5. Cordon off the area – if someone is footing the ladder or pedestrians cannot be excluded from the area.
  6. Footing – if you do need to use a single section ladder this may have to be footed. The ladder should be positioned one metre out for every 4 metres up. The ladder should be long enough to prevent standing on the top three rungs.
  7. Maintain 3 points of contact on a ladder at all times – never overreach or overstretch. The third point of contact should be a hand gripping the ladder frame and not an arm slung through a rung. 

Is it acceptable to stand on chairs or desks?

Standing on chairs or desks – Members of staff or students should never stand on a chair or desk to change a lightbulb, erect displays, or decorate the Christmas tree. It goes without saying, a lightweight and easily-accessible A-frame stepladder (Class 1 or Class 2) with top rail hand-hold, would be more appropriate!