Scope and Application


Work at height means working in a place where a person could be injured if they fell from one level to another. This can be above or below ground level.

Work at height does not include slipping, tripping or falling at the same level.

In these guidelines the terms “shall” and “should” are used. “Shall” is used where there is a requirement to meet legal obligations. “Should” is used as a way of indicating the practicable steps the Department expects to be taken on a particular matter.


Regulation 21

Regulation 21 of the HSE Regulations is the source of the often-quoted “threemetre rule”. It is mistakenly believed that no controls are needed where a person faces a fall of less than three metres. That belief is wrong and ignores the overarching duties in the HSE Act.

The HSE Act requires that if there is a potential for a person at work to fall from any height, reasonable and practicable steps must be taken to prevent harm from resulting.


Doing nothing is not an option.


Short duration height work

Short duration work at height shall be treated the same way as any other activity at height. Appropriate fall prevention controls shall be put in place, regardless of the time duration of the task.

Short duration work means work that lasts minutes rather than hours. It may not be reasonably practicable to provide full edge protection for short duration work but it still needs to be considered during the assessment of hazards and should not be discounted.