Working at heights procedures


All staff members (including contractors and other workers) and students at the University who plan or participate in working at height (WAH).

The procedures do not cover recreational or adventurous activities at height, or theatrical performances.


These procedures support the Working at Height Standard. They ensure that:

  • Adequate planning has been carried out.
  • Potential hazards are identified.
  • Appropriate controls are put in place.
  • Appropriate information from any incidents
    is captured.


Roles and responsibilities

1. The specific roles involved with working at height include:

Deans of faculties and directors of service divisions. Deans of faculties and directors of service divisions must be able to identify all working at height activities in their area of responsibility. Note: This is so they can allocate the appropriate resources so that the activities can be carried out safely.

Height safety operator. Operators are people who have been trained and authorised to carry out working at height activities under the supervision of a height safety supervisor. An operator must not conduct height work for which they have not received training, and they must not conduct height work without a supervisor nearby.

An operator is authorised to conduct daily and pre-use inspections of height safety equipment they have been trained to use.

Height safety supervisor. Height safety supervisors are responsible for planning and executing working at height activities. They need to be able to:

  • Plan the activity: Identify the most appropriate safe work method, conduct a risk assessment, apply appropriate controls, and select a suitable rescue plan.
  • Select and brief height safety operators
  • Supervise the WAH activity.
  • Lead and direct any first response height rescue.

Height safety manager. At the University, height safety managers are people who can approve working at height management plans.  They will normally be experienced supervisors who have completed additional training in risk management. They can also provide advice on:

  • Safe work at height practices.
  • Selection of height safety equipment.
  • Development of risk management plans. 

Height safety equipment inspector. Height safety equipment inspectors are people who have been trained and authorised to conduct regular (six or twelve monthly) or other detailed inspections of working at height equipment. 

Planning the work

2. Working at height management plans must be documented using either the recommended UoA template, or an equivalent locally produced document. Look now: Management plan template

3. In either case it must include the following six critical elements:

  • The type of work to be carried out (a description of the task)
  • The work methods/controls to be used (work on solid construction, scaffolds, mobile elevated work platforms, fall prevention systems, work positioning systems, fall restraint systems etc.)
  • A risk assessment of the activity/activities
  • The minimum number of participants that are required to conduct the activity
  • Personal protective equipment requirements
  • An emergency response plan (including preferred method of rescue).  This may be a separate document attached to the plan.

4. Appropriate controls must be considered if there is any risk of a fall. 

5. The hierarchy of controls must be considered in order. Look now: Hierarchy of controls in the management plan template.

6. If the controlled risk of a fall is HIGH or EXTREME extra controls must be implemented to bring the risk down to a low or moderate level, or the activity must be cancelled completely.

7. If the uncontrolled risk of a fall is MODERATE or higher, the task is to be deemed working at height; a WAH management plan is required.

8. If the uncontrolled risk of a fall is LOW, the task is not deemed working at height, but work must still be carried out in a safe manner.

9. If a WAH management plan (WAH MP) is not required, risks must still be reduced as far as is reasonably practicable and participants must comply with any applicable Safe Work Instructions.


10. All WAH MPs must be approved by a height safety manager, who must not be the person who drafted the plan (this ensures a cross check has taken place). 

11. In the case of contractors, a competent person (normally a project manager) must grant approval.

Reviewing the plan

12. WAH MPs must be continually monitored and reviewed to ensure that they remain effective in controlling hazards as far as is reasonably practicable. 

13. All WAH MPs must be reviewed at least annually or after any incident.

14. University staff members and students, when working with or embedded into external working environments, are to follow the WAH work methods of that particular organisation, provided the level of protection does not fall below the University’s standards.

Emergency response plans

15. University work groups engaging in WAH tasks and using harness based control measures or Mobile Elevated Working Platforms must have documented emergency first response rescue plans in place.

16. The WAH rescue plan must be briefed to persons working at height and designated rescuers before the task begins. 

17. The plan has to be formally tested on at least an annual basis to ensure effectiveness, and additional practical or theoretical rescue drills should be conducted on a regular basis.  

Keeping records

18. A record of the controls (e.g. the WAH MP) is to be kept for five years if a notifiable incident occurs in relation to the work.

Safety equipment

19. All equipment used for a harness-based fall arrest system must be designed, manufactured, selected and used in compliance with the AS/NZS1891 series of standards.

20. Only full body harnesses are to be used for fall arrest. Note: Lower body harnesses may allow people to fall out if they are inverted, and belts or waist straps can cause significant internal injuries in a fall.

21. When using a harness based system, the following key safety requirements, in addition to those outlined in AS/NZS 1891, must be met:

  • A person must never work alone while using a fall arrest system; there must always be another person in the workplace able to conduct emergency rescue if a fall occurs.
  • All persons using a harness-based system need to be trained
    and competent in its use.
  • The straps need to be correctly adjusted and buckles need
    to be properly secured/locked off.
  • Harnesses must be fitted with suspension intolerance/trauma
    relief straps. 
  • People using a fall arrest system are not to deliberately place themselves in a situation that could result in a fall.
  • The system is to be designed, installed and used so that the person falls the shortest distance possible. 
  • Where the fall arrest equipment has been subject to the forces of a fall, it must be immediately quarantined for inspection.
  • Once used in the arrest of a fall, fall arrest equipment (harness and shock absorber – if fitted) is to be quarantined and disposed of in accordance with normal processes for the disposal of unserviceable equipment. 
  • All other equipment is to be inspected and checked by a height safety equipment inspector before being certified as safe for use and reintroduced to service.

22. Due to the risk of sustaining serious injury such as strangulation or de-gloving (or even death), all personnel must remove any items that are likely to be snagged or hooked up in a fall, such as rings, watches, jewellery, neck ties and scarves, before beginning any work at height (including climbing ladders).

Personal protective equipment

23. Shoes and boots should be provided with safety toe caps (where required) and non-slip soles. 

24. Footwear must allow the user to use steps and footholds without snagging.

25. Footwear must be securely fastened and checked to ensure that soles are free of slippery substances or contaminants before WAH is conducted. 

26. People wearing high heels must never climb ladders.

27. All clothing such as overalls, jackets and hi-viz vests should be well fitted and securely fastened so they do not snag projections and structures at height.

28. Helmet chin straps must be fastened and correctly adjusted.

29. Helmets should be worn when:

  • Working at height where the risk of a fall is moderate or greater.
  • Using a fall restraint/arrest harness.
  • Operating a MEWP.


Notification to Worksafe NZ

It is a legal requirement that WorkSafe NZ is notified at least 24 hours before the following working at height situations take place:

  • Work where participants could fall five metres or more, excluding work on a two-storey house, or work on a power or telephone line, or work carried out from a ladder only, or maintenance or repair work of a minor or routine nature.
  • The erection or dismantling of scaffolds from which a person could fall five metres or more.

Note: Supervisors can make notifications online using the links provided at Worksafe. Supervisors drafting WAH MPs should use bold text in the appropriate fields to declare whether the work is or is not notifiable.


For the purpose of this document:

Control(s) refers to an item or action designed to remove a hazard or reduce the risk from it.

Fall refers to an unexpected sudden drop by a person or object from a higher to a lower level.

Hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm (injury or ill-health) or damage to property or equipment in connection with a work activity.

Hierarchy of control refers to controlling hazards in a specified order of precedence (further information is in WAH Guidance).

Incident is any unplanned event resulting in, or having a potential for injury, ill health, damage or other loss.

Operators are people who have been trained and authorised to carry out working at height activities under the supervision of a height safety supervisor. 

Risk refers to the likelihood a hazard will cause harm (injury or ill health) and the degree of harm (consequence).

Risk assessment is the process of evaluating the risk(s) arising from a hazard(s), taking into account the adequacy of any existing controls, and deciding whether or not the risk(s) is acceptable.

Working at height (WAH) means working in a place where a person could be injured if they fell from one level to another and the risk of falling is of moderate risk or higher. This can be above or below ground level, and is regardless of the duration of the task.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Key relevant documents

Document Control
Version: 1.0
Last Updated: Dec 2019
Next Review: Dec 2022
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing