AIF seeks to save UK’s Work at Height Regulations

By Euan Youdale07 December 2022

Trade association body The Access Industry Forum (AIF) has reacted to the potential scrapping of the UK’s Work at Height Regulations by the sitting government. 

Under the UK government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which is currently passing through British Parliament, derived laws that remain on the UK statute book following Brexit will be removed at the end of 2023.  

AIF - Work at Height Regs

The need to address risks involved in working at height has been recognised in UK legislation for nearly sixty years but historically only covered the construction sector. The 2005 Work at Height Regulations extended the rules to people in all industries who work at height.

The Bill proposes to ‘sunset’ over 2,400 laws, according to AIF, and the Work at Height Regulations is one of them. There are many more within the health and safety category, including the Manual Handling Operations Regulations and Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations.

The Access Industry Forum (AIF) unites the ten principal trade associations and federations involved in work at height: ATLAS, EPF, FASET, IPAF, IRATA, Ladder Association, NASC, PASMA, SAEMA and WAHSA.

In a statement, AIF said, “This law is important to anyone who works at height as part of their job. It’s a daily occurrence, with an estimated 10 million of us climbing a ladder, ascending scaffolding or finding another way to work at height every year. This encompasses everyone from construction workers and steeplejacks to teaching assistants, shop workers and artists.

“The Regulations set out what you need to do to manage risks from working at height, and provides a simple set of rules that prevent people from falling. Without them, employers wouldn’t have to ensure workers are competent, select suitable access equipment for each task or inspect that equipment regularly.

“We’d also lose life-saving principles such as the need to prioritise collective fall prevention measures (like guardrails) over personal fall prevention measures (like harnesses) and to carry out work from ground level wherever possible.

Fall statistics 

Falling from height is still the most common cause of workplace fatalities. There have been 683 since 2005. It also causes 8% of non-fatal injuries, according to statistics released by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) last week.

In British workplaces, the number of falls from height has declined, said AIF, while the Work at Height Regulations have been in place. The year before they were introduced, there were 67 fatal falls, making up 29% of total fatalities. Last year, there were 29 fatal falls, which was 24% of total fatalities. Still 29 too many, but less than half what it was before the Regulations.

If the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill passes, these regulations will automatically end on 31 December 2023 unless the government takes action to save individual regulations. “The UK is a world-leader in preventing falls from height and should be proud of our consistently low fatality rates and our internationally recognised expertise. The Work at Height Regulations are a cornerstone of our national strategy to prevent falls. But by the end of next year, they could be gone,” said AIF. 

In response, the AIF has submitted written evidence to the UK’s House of Commons Public Bill Committee, which is now considering the Bill.

“Between us, we represent manufacturers, hire centres, suppliers, training companies and instructors and organisations providing work at height services. We are unanimous in our serious concerns about the impact of repealing vital health and safety legislation.

“We are urging the committee to act now to exclude the Work at Height Regulations from the repeal. You can read our evidence in full.”

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