Safety When Working at Height

Falls from heights is the largest single cause of death for construction workers worldwide and is second only to Vehicles, as the main cause of fatalities at work in Ireland.

Work at height is considered as ‘any place, at, above or below ground level, where a person could be injured if they fell from that place’.

While we tend to concentrate on our work based activities, we often forget about our activities in the home.                       

Removing the Christmas lights from the roof, carrying out general maintenance or gardening at home can place you in a position of working at a height, where you have the potential to fall.

Every year on average, 5 people die from falling from a height in Ireland and these statistics only cover accidents at work. The stats don’t cover accidents in the home (general maintenance by home owners).

Insurance statistics estimate that on average, 2 people get killed and over 200 serious accidents occur in the home every year, by people falling off ladders and even this is considered to be an underestimate as only the serious accidents are reported to the insurance industry.  We rarely hear about the person who falls but doesn’t get seriously injured.


Ladders in particular are a much abused item of equipment at home and some of the reasons for falls is:

  • Working from unsecured ladders.             Secure all ladders.
  • Overreaching from ladders.                        Get down and move the ladder.  
  • Standing on the top of ladders to gain an extra few inches.           Get a taller ladder.
  • Climbing ladders with material or tools.                                              Always maintain 3 points of contact with a ladder at all times. Use a tool belt or tool bag to carry tools.
  • Using damaged ladders.                              Replace the ladder. The cost is negligible considering the potential cost of an accident.
  • Placing ladders on poor, soft or uneven ground.                               Always ensure ladders are placed on a firm level surface.

Don’t be a statistic, if you are going to work a height, use the correct equipment. If you cant comply with the above, a ladder is probably not suitable for the task.   

Ladders are useful but are often unsuitable in how we use them. Ladders should be used for light work, of a short duration and only if you can comply with the rules.

Don’t Fall for the temptation of taking shortcuts when working a height, the consequences can be disastrous.

If anyone has any questions, comments, suggestions or other useful information on the above topic, or ideas on other campaigns that you would like to see run, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Tim O’Sullivan,

Safety Officer  | Kerry County Council | County Buildings | Tralee |

Tel: 087 3820281 | e-mail: |