Work at height: legislation and risk assessment

23 July 2021

In many jobs, workers find themselves working at height and this obviously involves significant risks. In fact, it is possible to say that the so-called work at height sector is considered one of those most exposed to high risk scenarios and situations.


Given the gravity and weight of the responsibilities that cover work at height, regulations have been specifically designed to make it possible to make the correct risk assessments and to adopt the necessary prevention and safety measures.


In this article we see what the current legislation is for work at height, how to carry out a risk assessment and what is the minimum reference height according to the laws in force.



  • Minimum reference height
  • Work at height: obligations of the employer and legislation

Definition of work at height
Current legislation
Obligations of the employer

  • Risk assessment




Minimum reference height

The minimum height for work at height, according to art. 107 of Legislative Decree 81/08, is from 2 meters or more, calculated from any floor considered as stable.


The only activities that do not follow this evaluation are:

  • Works carried out at sea;
  • Activities relating to mining;
  • Activities related to hydrocarbons or gases.


Work at height: obligations of the employer and legislation

As mentioned above, work at height is regulated by specific legislation that provides a definition, establishes the laws and defines the obligations covered by the employer.


Definition of work at height:

Work at height is considered to be all those work activities carried out at a height of more than two meters, which therefore expose the worker to the risk of falling. Among the different activities contemplated by the definition, excavation activities that involve depths greater than the one mentioned are also included.




Current legislation:

When referring to work at height, the legislation to be taken into consideration is Title IV, Chapter II of Legislative Decree 81/08.


The legislation relating to work at height illustrates all the rules relating to the prevention of accidents. These measures include:

  • Correct use of PPE.
  • Adoption of the correct equipment: it is in fact mandatory to have the necessary equipment correctly on site such as: ladders, ropes and scaffolding.
  • Adoption of suitable fences and barriers: in fact, there is an obligation to adopt appropriate fences aimed at preventing the access of unauthorized personnel in areas with potential danger of falling.
  • Prohibition to carry out works if the weather conditions do not allow it.
  • Ban on alcoholic beverages.
  • Training obligation.

Obligations of the employer:

The Safety Manager and / or the employer are the two possible figures responsible for protecting the safety of workers. For this reason, all civil and criminal responsibilities fall on them.


The person responsible for safety at work is a person designated to manage and coordinate all the activities envisaged for the protection and prevention of risks. For this reason, his duties and responsibilities include:

  • Identification of all fall danger zones.
  • Adoption of the correct safety measures and equipment necessary to work safely.
  • Fulfillment, through the necessary measures, of the obligations and indications provided by the legislation.
  • Provide mandatory training to their employees.

Risk assessment

A correct risk assessment for work at height finds its starting point in identifying the possible risks that the worker may encounter:

  • Fall from above: while carrying out a work activity at height, it is possible to meet the risk of falling from above. Due to loss of balance and / or slipping, if sufficient safety measures have not been taken, there is the possibility that the worker will suffer damage (even fatal) resulting from the arrest following the fall.
  • Inert suspension: as a result of loss of consciousness, due to multiple reasons, it is possible that a rapid deterioration of the vital functions of the body may occur due to the suspension of the worker with the harness. To overcome this risk, it is important to lower the suspended body to the ground as soon as possible.
  • Impact caused by the pendulum effect: the activation of some safety devices against falling can cause the so-called pendulum effect: the effect is based on the oscillation of the worker tied to an anchor point in the void. In these circumstances, the worker can therefore collide with obstacles or on the ground and therefore suffer more or less serious injuries.

A correct risk assessment includes, in addition to risks, also programming and security planning: let’s see what it is.


Programming and planning play a central role in occupational safety: they make it possible to organize and adopt all the necessary preventive safety measures. In detail, we are therefore talking about the organizational measures and PPE useful for lowering the risks to the minimum level.


Do you want to find out more about the legislation for work at height?

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