Human Resources

Health and Safety

Working at Height

Work at any height can cause injury.

A fall from a height of just one or two steps can cause serious injury. In Great Britain in 2007/08, there were 58 fatalities attributed to falls from height, 59% of which occurred in the construction industry. Falls from height also caused 3,600 major injuries which were reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013 and a further 3,400 injuries which led to workers being incapacitated for work for 3 days or more.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 came into force on 6 April 2005. Working at height is defined as "work in any place, including a place at or below ground level, or obtaining access to or egress from such a place, while at work, except by a staircase where, if suitable measures were not taken, a person could fall a distance likely to cause personal injury". This means that anyone undertaking any work where they could fall is working at height and therefore the risks this poses must be taken into consideration and properly controlled as far as is reasonably practicable.

The popular press reported that ladders were banned as a result of the new regulations that came into force in 2005. The regulations still permit the use of access equipment which does not include a fully enclosed platform (such as a step ladder or ladder), but this must be justified in a risk assessment which demonstrates that the work is low risk, of short duration and can be safely carried out with the equipment described.

For work at height which is not simple low risk work, it is advisable for managers to have in place a formal authorisation procedure which ensures that a risk assessment is documented and all correct safety precautions have been implemented by staff, students and contractors, prior to work at height starting. This is known as a permit to work system – a formal written system used to control certain types of work that are potentially hazardous, such as work at height [HSE, INDG98 (rev3)].'

In 2008 there were 2 serious accidents to students in the University caused by working incorrectly at height. In both cases the students fell whilst standing on a chair. Both students broke an arm and were incapacitated for a number of weeks.

Working at Height Equipment

All working at height equipment must be suitable for the purpose for which it is being used and comply with the requirements for the Regulations*

* Schedule 2 and 3 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Maintenance of Working at Height Equipment

All equipment must be maintained and inspected regularly by a competent person.

The equipment must be inspected regularly and inspections recorded locally by the department.


All staff and students who use working at height equipment must have received suitable and sufficient training to enable them to use the equipment safety, not endangering themselves or others. For details on our training courses see the training page.

Please contact the Health and Safety Office for further information.


Inspection, Storage and Issue of Ladders [Acrobat (.pdf) - 32.3 KB Mon, 12 Feb 2018 09:00:00 GMT]