Working at heights standard


This standard applies to all staff members (including contractors and other workers) and students at the University of Auckland who plan or participate in working at height.

It does not cover recreational or adventurous activities at height, or theatrical performances.



  • Ensure adequate planning is carried out to provide for the health and safety of all participants (staff members, students and contractors)
  • Ensure that potential hazards are identified and appropriate controls put in place
  • Capture appropriate information from any incidents


The University of Auckland conducts working at height (WAH) in multiple activities across many faculties and service divisions, and has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of persons carrying out these activities. 

This standard defines working at height, and states the minimum requirements that are required to be carried out when working at height is being performed.



1.  All working at height activities must be documented in an approved working at height management plan (WAH MP). 
The plan must include:

  • 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
  • The number of participants required
  • Personal protective equipment requirements
  • An emergency response plan (including preferred
    method of rescue).


2.  All working at height management plans (WAH MPs) must be approved.  If the risk assessment identifies the activity as having a high residual risk, the activity must not be performed.


3. All health and safety control measures identified in the WAH MP must be in place before the activity begins.

4. All participants listed in the WAH MP must be trained to a level that reflects their role.

5. All equipment required for the activity must be inspected and confirmed to be serviceable before the activity begins.

6. Any factors that may affect the successful application of the WAH MP (such as rain, high winds or physical ability of participants) must be taken into account before the activity commences, and if necessary, the activity must be delayed or cancelled.

7. All participants must be briefed on the WAH MP by the activity supervisor before the activity commences.  Participants must ask for clarification if any part of the plan is not understood.

8. All incidents (including accidents or near-misses) occurring during working at height activities must be reported as per University of Auckland policy.


9. WAH MPs must be reviewed if an incident occurs during the related activity.

10. WAH MPs must be reviewed annually.


The following definitions apply to this document:

Control: An item or action designed to remove a hazard or reduce the risk from it.

Fall: An unexpected sudden drop by a person or object from a higher to a lower level.

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

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

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

Risk assessment: 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: 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 moderate or higher. This can be above or below ground level, and is regardless of the duration of the task.

Working at height includes, but is not limited to, circumstances in which a person is working:

  • In or on an object or structure that is at an elevated level
  • In or on an object or structure that is being used to gain access to an elevated level
  • In the vicinity of an opening through which a person may fall
  • In the vicinity of an edge over which a person may fall
  • On or in the vicinity of a surface through which a person could fall
  • On or near a slippery, sloping or unstable surface.

Specific examples of activities that are considered working at height are:

  • An employee working on a roof
  • An engineering student working from a scaffold to build a structure in the structures test hall
  • A staff member using a cherry picker to replace a light on a lamp post
  • A wine science student working on top of a large cylindrical tank
  • Campus Life personnel setting up a banner for an approved event above a hall entrance
  • A person working near an open lift shaft on the ground floor of a building
  • Window washers abseiling as part of their normal work
  • A theatre worker rigging lights above a stage.

Specific examples of activities that are NOT considered working at height are:

  • Staff using an approved step ladder to change a light bulb at a low height 
  • Ascending/descending internal or external stairs 
  • Adventurous activities such as rock climbing and non-work related abseiling
  • An actor performing while suspended from a harness
  • Flying and parachuting
  • Students holding an unapproved roof party
  • Criminal activity (including trespassing).

Key relevant documents

  • University of Auckland Health, Safety and Wellbeing policy
  • Working at height procedures
  • Working at height guidance
  • AS/NZS 1891 Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices
  • MBIE Best Practice guidelines for WAH in New Zealand: April 2012
  • Industrial Rope Access in New Zealand: Best Practice Guidelines: May
  • A guide for safe working practices in the New Zealand theatre and
    entertainment industry: 2007

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