“… I was out in the garden with my stepladder today. Not my real ladder. I don't get on with my real ladder …”

I was reminded of this old one liner when reading the latest instalment of the government’s Red Tape Challenge

This is the revised guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on working at height. This is now much simpler and sets out in clear terms what the law requires and the nature of an individual's responsibilities. It should be part of every personal injury lawyer’s tool kit.

The new guidance is available free online:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg401.pdf

More than 1 million British businesses and 10 million workers are estimated to carry out jobs involving some form of working at height every year. The Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) 2005 (SI 2005/735) set out the law as it applies in Great Britain. These regulations have not changed.

However key changes to HSE guidance include:

Simple advice about the dos and don'ts of working at height.

The dispelling of some of the persistent myths about health and safety law (Example – I am working at height if I’m walking up and down a staircase at work. No, you are not. Work at height does not include walking up and down a permanent staircase in a building”).

Targeted advice to help businesses in different sectors manage serious risks sensibly and proportionately.

Helping workers to be clearer about their own responsibilities for working safely.

The new guidance was produced with the support of various bodies including the British Retail Consortium, and the trade unions.

It is also timely. Falls remain one of the biggest causes of serious workplace injury with more than 40 people killed and 4,000 others suffering major injuries every year.

For lawyers, the guidance sets out clearly and informatively what employers need to do to protect their employees when they are working at height whilst at the same time making clear what can reasonably expected of employees to take responsibilities for their own safely.

The emphasis is less on formal qualifications and more on competence. This means having the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the work being carried out.

Hardly new advice but a valuable reminder nonetheless!