An employer’s overview of UK outdoor working regulations

In the UK we are fortunate enough to have some of the most rigorous regulations in the world regarding health and safety in the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations govern the use of tools and equipment like chainsaws, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Workplace accidents have a huge implication. Obviously, there is the trauma and suffering for the injured and their family, but there are also ramifications for the business, which can be crippling. For the business owner, this can mean compensation, litigation, reduced productivity, reputational effects and fines. In this article we shall concentrate on three main areas of UK outdoor working regulations: tools, working at height and PPE.

UK outdoor working regulations


The chainsaw is a vital tool for workers in the arboriculture and forestry industry, as well as other professions. In many cases workers may be required to operate a chainsaw at height In these circumstances, two people must always be present when the chainsaw is in operation; one of the ground staff must be qualified to carry out an aerial rescue. Jobs involving chainsaws must be planned ahead and communication maintained throughout.

On busy sites, there should be one member of ground staff allocated to each climber. Tools should be passed up to the climbers. Ropes must be kept free of kinks and knots and well away from vehicles and other obstructions. Traffic and members of the public must be kept away from the working area. Ropes need to be controlled, but not wrapped around the body.

Working at height

There are lots of jobs that involve working at height such as window cleaning, gardening, building site work and arboriculture and tree surgery. Factors to be taken into consideration include climbing ladders and scaffolding safely, as well as managing tools and equipment such as hedge-trimmers. Read more at ToolsDiary

The responsibilities for safe lifting operations for crane users are shared between the hirer and the user. There is considerable scope for accidents in crane work, and these fall into the two main areas of the collapsing of the crane and the falling of the load. Other incidents can include people being struck by moving loads, cranes coming into contact with overhead conductors or even colliding with each other.

Personal protective equipment

PPE must not only be provided, but it must be kept in good condition and stored in an appropriate environment. If it is shared and kept at the business premises, there must be a range of sizes available. Some items are particular to the employee and must be custom-made, such as face and eye equipment (these will need to fit with prescription glasses if they are worn).

Damage can also be caused by excessive noise, with some 170,000 people suffer hearing problems or ear conditions resulting from excessive noise in the workplace, according to the HSE.

The PPE directive was established in 1989. In 2018 the first ever changes were put in place to enforce and strengthen this directive in terms of the manufacture and sale of PPE.

There are many different types of PPE and they will need to be suited to the job in hand. If we take chainsaw workers as an example, the appropriate PPE includes all of the following:

  • Chainsaw Trousers to EN 381-5
  • Chainsaw Boots to BS EN ISO 20345:2004 (showing a shield depicting a chainsaw to comply with EN 381-3)
  • Chainsaw Helmets to EN397 or for aerial use of a chainsaw, Helmets with chin strap to EN12492
  • Chainsaw Hearing Protection to EN 352-1
  • Mesh Visor or safety glasses to EN 166
  • Chainsaw Gloves to EN 381-7

The categories of PPE can usefully be determined by the part of the body which needs protecting. These areas are: head, ears, eyes and face, hands, feet and legs and groin area.

These will be needed to a greater or lesser degree depending on the job role. With all outdoor working, PPE will include high visibility clothing, even if work is always undertaken during daylight hours.

All UK employers with outdoor workers must comply with all the relevant health and safety working regulations and carry out regular risk assessments for the benefit of all their employees. To ignore this responsibility can result in not only serious injury to your workers, but in permanent financial and reputational damage for your business and possibly even a criminal charge.