Working at heights

Falls are one of the main causes of injuries and fatalities at workplaces. It is therefore important that the employer surveys hazards and assesses the risks involved so that work can be performed safely.

Examples of work at heights are work on roofs and on ladders, work on platforms and in scaffolding, work in lifts and work on fragile surfaces where there is a danger of falling through.

Try to avoid employees needing to work at heights. If this is not possible, ensure that the work has as short a duration as possible.

Lowering the risk of falls

Here are some simple accident prevention guidelines for working at heights:

  • If you cannot avoid working at heights, choose workplaces that are already secure.
  • Make sure that work at heights is carried out safely, using the right equipment from a satisfactory surface.
  • Use collective fall protection, such as guard rails, rather than individual fall protection equipment.

Read more about personal protective equipment (PPE) (in Norwegian only)

Make a risk assessment

Survey and assess risks associated with the work and the workplace. If the survey and assessment show that work can be carried out without anyone needing to work at heights, you should do so.

If the assessment shows that there is no alternative to working at heights, the employer must plan and organise the work so that safety is taken care of. Make sure that the planning is carried out by competent specialists.

Read more about risk assessment (In Norwegian only)

Use the right equipment

Equipment for working at heights such as scaffolding, lifts, etc. must be dimensioned for the work to be carried out and for predictable loads. On the basis of a risk assessment, the employer must implement measures appropriate for reducing the risk the workers are exposed to when using this equipment. At locations where there are special hazards such as difficult weather conditions, traffic, live cables and the like, special safety measures shall be implemented before equipment for working at heights is installed and taken into service.

Select the most appropriate access route to temporary work at heights on the basis of the following conditions, among others:

  • how often the workers move
  • the height of the access route
  • how long it is in use

It must be possible to use the access route for evacuation in an emergency situation.

Tips for increasing the safety of work at heights

  • Carry out as much as possible of the work on the ground.
  • Place the access as close as possible to the work location.
  • Ensure that the workers can safely get to and from the work location. Use a stair tower for access.
  • Make sure that the equipment for working at heights is suitable, has sufficient stability and strength, is properly maintained and is regularly inspected.
  • Ensure that the equipment is checked before being taken into service. Equipment that is out of order must be removed from service.
  • Plan the storage location for the work. The storage location is part of the work site.
  • Use lifting equipment/cranes for transporting /lifting materials. Be careful to avoid overloading and overstretching.
  • Show particular regard for fragile surfaces and platforms.
  • Provide for collective protection against falling objects.
  • Satisfactory lighting makes work easier and safer.
  • A tidy workplace is a safer one.
  • Assess routines and measures for emergency evacuation and rescue operations.
  • Remember responsibility for the safety of third parties.
  • Scaffolders must be trained in scaffolding erection work. Various requirements apply to such training depending on the top deck height of the scaffolding.
  • Users of scaffolding must have training in the use of the scaffolding concerned.
  • Foundation: The scaffolding must have sound support. Regular checks must be made to establish whether any settling has taken place in the ground.
  • Access: The scaffolding must have safe access.
  • Signs: Scaffolding must be marked with a clearly visible sign indicating whether the scaffolding is safe to use or, alternatively, that use is not permitted.
  • Anchoring: Scaffolding that is not designed to stand freely or be suspended must be sufficiently anchored. The anchor ties must be dimensioned in relation to the loads to which the scaffolding is subjected. Anchoring devices must be tested by applying a load that is 20% higher than the load for which they are designed.
  • Scaffold deck: The scaffold deck must be fastened so that it does not rock or become displaced during normal use, and the scaffold deck must not have any openings through which materials, tools, etc. can fall on other persons.
  • Guard rails: Scaffolding must as a general rule be equipped with guard rails in the form of handrails, knee boards and toe boards. If a toe board is not sufficient to prevent objects from falling down, the guard rail must be covered with netting or screens. The distance from the wall must not exceed 30 centimetres.
    • Training: All persons who are to erect, alter, remove or inspect scaffolding over 2 metres high must have documented training. The employer must also ensure that the worker acquires practice in the use of safety equipment to protect against falls.

Use of scaffolding

See requirements regarding use of scaffolding (in Norwegian only)

Use of lifts

When using lifts, the user must have documented training. The training must provide knowledge of the requirements laid down in regulations and instruction manuals regarding safe use and operation. The employer is also responsible for ensuring that a person assigned the use of a lift has been given equipment-specific training including practice and sufficient time to acquaint himself/herself with the machine concerned. The employer must ensure documented inspection of the lift by an enterprise of competence.

See the topic page on safe use of lifts (in Norwegian only)

Use of ladders

  • Ladders are mainly to be used for access, and not as work platforms.
  • Ladders may be used when, on the basis of a risk assessment, it is found inappropriate to use safer equipment.
  • The ladder must be set up in such a way that stability is ensured during use.
  • The ladder must be secured against sliding. As far as practically possible, the ladder must be fastened at the top or otherwise secured.
  • The ladder must be used in such a way that the workers always have a safe hold and firm footing.
  • The ladder must extend at least one metre above the access level. This makes it easier to get on and off the ladder.
  • When a ladder is to be used for access, it must always be secured at the top.

Use of lifts for temporary work at heights

In connection with temporary and short-term work at heights, the equipment used to lift workers must be adapted and the risks assessed on the basis of the work to be carried out.

Read more about the requirements regarding use of lifts for temporary work at heights (in Norwegian only)

Legislation and further information (in Norwegian only)

Chapter 17 ‘Work at heights’ of the Regulations concerning the performance of work

See the requirements of the Producer Responsibility Regulations

Read more about market surveillance of ladders and scaffolding

On 1 January 2016, major amendments of the Regulations concerning the Performance of Work entered into force. The amendments mainly concern the requirements regarding risk assessment, training, anchoring and securing of scaffolding. 

See the topic page on use of scaffolding (In Norwegian only)