Working at height

Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of injuries. Common cases include falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces. 'Work at height' means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.

What you need to do

If you are responsible for work that is carried out at height you will need to make sure it is properly planned, risk assessed, carried out by competent people and the right type of access equipment is selected and used. You also need to ensure the equipment is properly inspected and maintained.

Risk assessment

The risk assessment is a careful examination of the working at height tasks you are responsible for and identifies the hazards, who could be harm, what could happen and how they could be harmed. The risk control measures you put in place should control the risk of falling.

You should consider eliminating the need to work at height where it is reasonably practicable. If you can’t avoid working at height, you must prevent falls by selecting appropriate equipment. Where you cannot eliminate or prevent the risk you should use work equipment or other means to minimise the distance and consequences of the fall if it occurs. Don’t forget to include the control measures needed to make sure the equipment kept in a safe condition, safely stored and people know how to use it correctly and work safely at height. For some equipment, you will need to consider emergency rescue arrangements as well and specific rescue plans.

Access equipment

If you are using access equipment, such as ladders and stepladders, it needs to be right for the activity, fit for purpose, maintained in good condition and used by trained and authorised people.

The EN131 standard covering all types of portable ladders has been revised. The aim is to make selecting the right equipment easier as well as safer for users. All new ladders purchased from January 2019 will need to meet the new EN131 standard. It is recommended that new portable ladders used at the University are EN131 Professional standard. These ladders are intended for use in the workplace and have a maximum capacity of 150kg.

There is no need to replace existing ladders provided they are in a safe condition. However, older equipment should either be EN131 Trade/Industrial, BS1129 Class 1, BS2037 Class 1 or EN14183 standard. No ladder should have a CE mark on the label because there is no CE certificate scheme for ladders.


It is important that you and others who use access equipment for their work are given instruction in its safe use. Everyone who is expected to work at height within an office or other types of environment should be given the guidance in one of the following publications:

Staff who are likely to regularly use equipment as part of their work will need face-to-face training for their equipment and its safe use. The training will be determined by the type of equipment chosen for the work and the work activity.

Inspections and records

Access equipment should be regularly inspected to ensure they are in a safe condition. In offices an annual inspection is usually sufficient. More frequent inspections may be needed if the equipment is used frequently or in environments where they could become damaged more easily. In addition, users should carry out checks before they use it to ensure the equipment is safe.

Equipment should be marked or tagged with the last date of inspection, who carried it out and the equipment reference as a minimum and ladder inspection tags can be used to record this. A simple sticker containing the information can be used on kick stools. Equipment that fails the inspection or user check must be marked to indicate that they are not safe to use and taken out of use.

Inspection requirements for other access equipment will be different and you will need to do follow these.

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