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  9. Why is Working at Height Covered on a NEBOSH General Certificate Course?

Why is Working at Height Covered on a NEBOSH General Certificate Course?


A person operating a chainsaw at height

Working at height is a common occurrence for workers in many different industries. Not only does it describe individuals working a long way off the ground, but also includes those who happen to be just a few feet off the ground, such as up on a stepladder for example.

As a result, the principles of working at height are taught on NEBOSH General Certificate courses due to the fact that it is such a common and prevalent danger to workers in many different industries.

Typically, when most people think about work that takes place at height, their mind immediately conjures up images of people with jobs such as window cleaners of high rise buildings, or electricity engineers who have to scale up giant electricity pylons in order to fix power lines damaged in a storm.

Whilst these are indeed high risk jobs which involve a large element of working at height, the reality is that the majority of working at height injuries occur to workers performing tasks much closer to terra firma, which is talked about in the next section.

Working at Height - The Reality

The reality is that many individuals are often more at risk in a workplace where they have to work a few feet off the floor than if they had a job role which required them to work a long way above the ground.

All too often, this is because when they have to work at a great height, more attention is given to providing suitable health and safety training and suitable safety equipment. Conversely, when being required to work a few feet off the ground, there is a tendency for dangers to be overlooked or deliberately ignored in the belief that there will not be much of a hazard, or that it would be far quicker and simpler just to get up and do the task without messing around with safety gear.

Working at Height Injuries

Of course, falling from a long way off the ground such as in the high rise window cleaning or electrical engineer examples above are more than likely going to result in death from the fall. It is highly unlikely that anyone would be able to survive falling from that high up.

However, as mentioned earlier, the majority of people will come to harm not from falls from this high up, but from smaller falls off objects like stepladders and raised platforms. Not only will many more people be using these items and be a shorter distance off the ground than those working way up in the air, but they are also likely to be paying less attention to safety too. This combination is the reason for a greater number of working at height injuries from short distances.

These injuries include:

  • Head Injuries. Just because the fall is only a few feet does not mean that it cannot result in death or serious injury if a person were to hit their head.

  • Broken Bones, Dislocations and Ligament Sprains. A fall from quite high up or landing awkwardly can result in one or more of these injuries. They are extremely painful, and are likely to result in the injured person being off work for some length of time.

    Not only this, but it can negatively impact a person's personal life and activity as well. This can sometimes be permanent, in that whilst the bones and other damage may heal, they may experience pain and/or some loss of movement range for the rest of their lives as a result.

  • Bruises and Cuts. A person who has a fall from height should consider themselves lucky if this is all they have, rather than one of the injuries above. Whilst still painful, it is unlikely that they will require any time off from work and should only be a temporary issue, although it may restrict their movement whilst their body heals.

    Even so, it is far from an ideal situation, and could have been worse, which is why the aim of working at height training, and indeed health and safety training in general, is to prevent an accident such as this from occurring at all.

The NEBOSH General Certificate Qualification and Working at Height

As we have seen, the reality is that the majority of accidents occur to individuals working not far off the ground. Even a fall of just a few feet has the potential to cause severe injury or death if the person were to hit their head on the hard ground or on an object as they fall.

Whilst it will not go into practical demonstrations regarding working at height or providing training on how to correctly tie a safety harness for example, what the NEBOSH General Certificate will provide is a general overview of the main hazards and potential dangers associated with working at height, along with a brief look at the Work at Height regulations which set out the requirements that companies and employers are expected to adhere to with regards to health and safety for their employees.

Like many other categories and types of danger to worker's health, falls from height are one which causes many injuries each and every year, and yet are so easy to prevent with a bit more care and attention, as well as health and safety training to point out the specific risks. Bespoke health and safety training in particular, which focuses on the specific activities that employees undertake and their equipment/procedures for getting them up to the raised position, will be most beneficial of all. This bespoke training will teach employees exactly what they need to know in order to go about their daily tasks and minimise the risks of them falling from height.


Whilst all risk can never be eliminated completely, thorough safety training combined with common sense, vigilance and a culture of not taking risks and being safe will all combine to minimise these dangers in order to prevent as far as possible the chance of a person being injured in the workplace.

NEBOSH General Certificate Articles

Please see below for some articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification which you may be interested in:

Articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate course

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