Horizon Platforms Blog

Working at Heights – Myths That Are Not True

Here at Horizon Platforms, we know working at height can pose significant health and safety risks. The competent use of MEWPs (Mobile Elevating Work Platform) can minimise these risks, yet prevalent myths surrounding work at height can prove both problematic and dangerous. This includes misconceptions about procedures and equipment, and the spreading of such incorrect information may put workers at further risk.

Everyone has the right to work in a safe environment, we put this belief at the heart of our access hire equipment business. HSE provides easy to follow outlines of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations that businesses must adhere to. To help provide clarity to employees and employers, this blog post will discuss and dispel some of the most common myths about working at height. While some may seem trivial or innocuous, it is vital to ensure that all staff are in possession of the facts to reduce risk and create a safe workplace.

2 men working at height in a cherry picker


Wrong! Many people underestimate risk when working at low height, which can be detrimental and lead to serious injury. This myth may arise from misunderstanding what constitutes work-at-height, with many thinking that tasks must be completed from a roof or a piece of equipment such as a ladder or an access platform, for example, to qualify. However, work at height is defined by the HSE as ‘work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you: work above ground/floor level and could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground‘.

When any person is carrying out work where the risk of falling is liable to cause injury, the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) require that an employer must assess, plan and ensure work is properly supervised, to minimise the risk of falling. Taking these steps is essential to improving workplace safety, as most of falls from height occur when working at relatively short distances from the ground. In short, protective measures are required for all heights, no matter how minimal the distance may seem.


It is wrong to assume that working at height only requires protection when the task will be completed over a longer duration. This is both dangerous and untrue, as it doesn’t matter whether the job will take one minute or one month, steps must always be taken to reduce risk and ensure safety when working at height. Additionally, there is no minimum time stated in the WAHR and therefore protective measures and equipment that can minimise risk, such as MEWPs, must be utilised throughout.

Before work can commence, in addition to providing the right work at height equipment, an employer must put the correct protective measures into place – this is a two-fold process that includes collective protective equipment (CPE), such as guardrails, and personal protective equipment (PPE), like using safety harnesses when using boom lifts. Furthermore, a full risk assessment must be completed, a rescue plan prepared, and workers must be fully competent. These are legal requirements in accordance with the WAHR and must be followed regardless of task duration.


From the construction industry to warehousing, there is a common misconception that an individual must complete a formal qualification to use a ladder. As outlined in the HSE’s Safe Use of Ladders and Stepladders, this myth is untrue. However, this guide does state that individuals must be competent, meaning they must have received adequate instruction and possess the knowledge required to use the equipment safely.

In addition to procedural failings, falls from height often occur due to a lack of training, understanding and experience, and sometimes due to complacency. In the case of ladder usage, training can usually be carried out on the job, under the supervision of another competent individual. But, taking part in working at height training would be advantageous. Additionally, a ladder should always be checked before use. This includes ensuring there is no damage or wear to the feet, stiles, platform, steps or locking mechanisms.


If you ever hear someone say this, alarm bells should ring…very loudly! Whether work at height involves a ladder, PPE, scissor lifts or cherry pickers, equipment must be inspected before every use to ensure it is fit for purpose. This should include visual and functional checks to highlight any damage or deterioration, and should be in line with manufacturer guidelines – IPAF have created a pre-use inspection checklist for access platforms. If there are any issues with the equipment, it should be reported and not used until it has been examined by a trained specialist.

In addition to pre-use inspections, there are also guidelines that determine how often equipment must be inspected. For MEWPs, this includes the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), which state that an access platform must be thoroughly examined every six months, or sooner if there are circumstances which could impact the safety of the equipment, such as a collision or overturn. At Horizon, each powered access machine has a pre-delivery inspection to capture any issues before the equipment goes out on hire.

Inspections of PPE, including safety harness inspections, must comply with BS EN 365:2004 and BS 8437:2005. The former states that equipment must be inspected at least every 12 months, while the latter recommends 6 months or less where the equipment has been exposed to more taxing environments, such as adverse weather and demolition work. There are harness training courses available for further advice.


Protective equipment is an investment in your business and employees. You can’t a price on people’s health and safety! Taking the appropriate collective and personal protective measures can assist in the prevention of accidents, falls and injuries. This includes investing in employee training – our training centres are IPAF accredited – and selecting the best work at height access equipment for the task.

These proactive steps are essential when working at height in order to meet WAHR and keep people safe. Furthermore, failure to comply with the law could result in large costs from compensation and fines, as well as the potential of loss earnings from subsequent damage to business reputation. Time in prison is also a possibility. As such, investing in workforce safety must always be a key priority.


It is always the responsibility of both the employer and the contractor to ensure safety measures are being met. Businesses can be liable for failure to meet safety standards and do have a duty of care to all staff onsite, whether employed or contracted.

The business should take measures to make sure that the correct equipment and PPE is provided for working at height, ensure proper inspections take place and the correct procedures are followed to mitigate any safety risks.

What other work at height myths have you encountered? We would love to know. Tell our team on LinkedIn or Facebook.

With a triple crown of ISO accreditations, Safe Contractor and the hard to achieve IPAF Rental+, plus more, Horizon Platforms is proud of our attention to detail when it comes to powered access safety and service. So, if you need access platform training for you and your team or you need to buy, contract hire or hire reliable and safe access platforms, look no further than Horizon Platforms.