The Work at Height Regulations
The Government is currently proposing to ‘scrap’ the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Why is the Government axing these regulations?
This is due to a Bill currently passing through Parliament – The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform Bill) – which seeks to remove approximately 2 400 EU derived laws that currently remain on the UK statute book following Brexit. If this Bill passes, the whole lot, including the Work at Height Regulations, will be automatically revoked.
Why do we need them?
We believe that the Work at Height Regulations are not only fundamental to the scaffolding and access industry, but equally important to anyone who is required to work at height during the course of their job. It is estimated that some one million companies and 10 million personnel are required to carry out operations involving work at height each year. This encompasses everyone from construction workers and steeplejacks to teaching assistants and shop workers.
Whilst historically falls from height remain one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries within the UK, the introduction of the Work at Height Regulations in 2005 provided a positive ‘step-change’ in safety standards. The year before these regulations were introduced (2003-4) 67 fatalities occurred due to falls from height. Last year the number was reduced to 29 and whilst it is appreciated that there is still progress to be made, the effectiveness of the Work at Height Regulations is clearly demonstrated by these statistics.
The current regulations set out the essential requirements for managing risks and provide simple rules to prevent people and objects falling from height. They provide life saving principles such as the need to eliminate work at height where this is reasonably practicable and prioritise measures for fall prevention over personal protection.
The Work at Height Regulations have provided levels of safety which have stood the test of time, being active for some 17 years now, without the need for any fundamental amendment.
What will happen if the Bill passes?
If the Bill passes without excluding the Work at Height Regulations, this legislation could be automatically repealed on 31 December 2023, without any consultation or parliamentary scrutiny. There are options to postpone the repeal, but only until June 2026, or a new set of regulations could be introduced. However, by law, these cannot be more burdensome than the current requirements and the likelihood is that the new requirements will offer less protection to workers.
That is why it is so important to act now. It is a crucial time for anyone involved in work at height or with an interest in workers’ safety to speak up for the protections that have been afforded to us for so long.