Horizon Platforms Blog

The Biggest Health Risks From Working At Height

Working at height can be one of the riskiest things you do as an employee. It is the biggest cause of fatal workplaces injuries, according to HSE (Health and Safety Executive), and was the cause of 8% of all workplace injuries for the 2022/2023 period. The number of deaths caused by falling from height rose from 2022 to 2023.

It is estimated over the past 12 month period 586,000 days on average were lost by full-time workers due to time off needed as a result from non-fatal falls from height at work. Workers in the construction industry were most likely to be killed by a fall from height. Roof workers in particular were most adversely affected, as 25% of all deaths in the construction industry happened on roofs. Falling through fragile materials on roofs accounted for the majority of deaths amongst roofers (HSE).

HSE data also showed there were an estimated 13,000 instances of injury caused by falls from height. We wanted to take a look at what the risks are of working at height to raise awareness of how dangerous it can be, with guidance on what businesses can do to mitigate this risk.

According to data on all causes of accident workplace accidents, the most common injuries seen are:

Type of InjuryEstimated Incidence Rate (thousands) 2022-2023
Fracture/Broken Bones66
Dislocation of Joints19
Lacerations/Open Wounds80

All of these injuries can all be caused as a result from falling from height. Whilst they may be fixable, they could lead to long term health issues and more serious injuries being sustained. Another study by injury solicitors claimed these more serious injuries were the most common injuries caused by falling from height:

  • Brain haemorrhaging
  • Head injury
  • Skull fractures
  • Spinal injury
  • Paralysis
  • Rib fractures
  • Lung contusion
  • Cardiac and aortic rupture
  • Broken limbs
  • Amputation injuries

This highlights the severity of how life-threatening these types of falls can be for workers, emphasising the importance of why employers should take care to put the necessary safety protocols in place.

What To Do If a Worker Is Injured After Falling From Height?

If you have witnessed a colleague fall from height at work, try to remain calm. It is imperative you do not try to move them, and tell them to keep still where possible, as movement could worsen injuries sustained. If you have a medical first aider on site, inform them of the incident and get them to assess the situation. If the fall appears serious you should call for medical assistance. For emergencies dial 999, for less urgent care advice call 111 in the UK. Prompt action and proper communication in these incidents can make a significant difference to the outcome.

Ideally on site first aiders and trained people should take control of the situation, and it is important to follow your company’s or the site’s procedure for dealing with such accidents. But try to talk to them if they are conscious and ask if they can feel pain anywhere, look for signs of bleeding. If there are areas bleeding, you can apply pressure, using a clean pad, to ease this while you wait for proper medical assistance.

Also, senior members of staff and health and safety professionals should be informed of the accident to record the incident and carry out any necessary investigations.

Where Do Most Falls From Height Occur At Work?

According to HSE, working with the following are most likely to cause a fall from height:

  • Roof lights
  • Liner panels on built-up sheeted roofs
  • Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets
  • Glass
  • Rotted chipboard
  • Slates and tiles

This aligns with the previous data showing roofers in the construction industry were most likely to suffer a fall from height.

Operator working safely at height on a cherry picker

What Can Employers Do To Reduce The Risk?

There are many measures employers can take to reduce the risks of falls from height. For example, for workers working on mezzanine floors, handrails should be installed to reduce the risk of falling. Those working at height should aim to avoid doing so alone, allowing there to be another staff member there to monitor any risk and support them in their activity.

HSE recommends work at height must be planned and organised in advance by employers. It is required that those working from height are deemed to be competent and the risk is assessed in advance, including the use of appropriate equipment such as scissor lifts or cherry pickers. Workers operating access platforms should have the appropriate training. The equipment itself should be fully inspected and well maintained, making it important to fully vet your provider before hiring powered access.

Where working from height is unavoidable, using the right equipment should be considered as the first port of call before sending employees to work at height. All measures should be taken to make the working space as safe as possible.

Are you looking to hire reliable and reliable scissor lifts or cherry pickers? Need powered access training for you or your team to ensure safe working? At Horizon Platforms we offer a wide range of powered access platforms for hire and training courses in access platform safety, head to our pages for further information.