Guidance Note 2 – Safe Use of Access Equipment

This Guidance Note gives practical information about using access equipment.

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Sample templates have been included in Appendices 1 and 2.

If you wish to use these templates to construct your own documents, you must ensure that all references to Alcumus SafeContractor Accreditation have been removed and the final documents are clearly incorporated into your existing safety management system.

Nature of the Problem

Falls are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and the second most common cause of major injuries. The application of correct safety management can reduce the risks that they pose.

All industry sectors are exposed to the risks presented by work at height although the incidence varies considerably. The risk of falls is prevalent within the construction sector. 34 of the 72 fatalities in the construction industry in 2007/2008 resulted from a fall from height.

Common Factors

Most accidents involving falls could have been prevented if the right equipment had been provided, and if the equipment had been adequately maintained and was properly used. But experience shows that as many falls arise due to poor management as are caused by equipment failure.

Key faults include a failure:

However, the best approach is to eliminate work at height if possible.


The most common incidents involve overreaching, over-balancing, equipment failure, misuse of equipment, unexpected movement (particularly where ladders are involved) and the failure of a fragile surface.

The main where falls take place are:

Legal Requirements

The Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) which came into effect in April 2005 consolidated and clarified the requirements for working at height.

The legal requirements governing work at height are:

The Regulations include Schedules that highlight requirements for existing places of work, and means of access for work at height, collective fall prevention (e.g. guardrails, working platforms), collective fall arrest (e.g. nets, airbags etc.), personal fall protection (e.g. work restraints, lanyards) and ladders.

Duty holders must:

​Please note that the regulations apply to all work at height where there is risk of a fall that is liable to cause personal injury. The previous 2 metre rule no longer applies.

The information below outlines the precautions to be taken when using certain types of access equipment for work at height. It does not cover cradles or rope access techniques.

When working at height the safest and most appropriate working platform must be used.

When making the decision what equipment to use, you must look at what the job requires, how long will it last and where it needs to be done. It is not illegal to use a ladder to work at height but other means of access such as fixed scaffold, tower scaffold or mobile elevated working platforms should be considered, before relying on ladders.

If you are considering using a ladder you must make sure that:

If a mobile elevated working platform is selected, then you must ensure the following:

If a mobile scaffolding tower is selected, then you must ensure the following:

If fixed scaffolding is selected, then you must ensure the following:


Further Guidance