Working at height

Work at height means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a fall could cause an injury.

You are working at height if you:

  • are working on a ladder or a flat roof
  • could fall through a fragile surface
  • could fall into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground

Before working at height:

  1. avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so
  2. if work at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls using the right type of equipment
  3. minimise the distance and consequences of a fall by using the right type of equipment if the risk cannot be eliminated

Activities on University of Bristol premises that require people to work at height will be covered by a full risk assessment. Low-risk, relatively straightforward activities will require less effort when it comes to planning.


  • do as much work as possible from the ground
  • consider the height of the task, the duration and frequency, and the condition of the surface on which the ladder is to be placed
  • ensure you can get safely to and from where you are working at height
  • ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly for signs of damage
  • carefully consider the positioning of the ladder to avoid causing an obstruction and reduce the risk of being knocked, secure if possible
  • make sure you don’t overload or overreach when working at height
  • take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
  • provide protection from falling objects
  • consider your emergency arrangements, including how will you get help in the event of injury

Ladder checklist

  1. Check the locking bars. Do not use a ladder if the locking bars are bent, missing or if the fixings are worn.
  2. Check the feet. Do not use a ladder if feet are missing or damaged.
  3. Check the step ladder platform. Do not use the ladder if the platform is split or buckled.
  4. Check the steps and treads. Do not use the ladder if steps or treads are contaminated.
  5. Check the step strength. Do not use the ladder if fixings are loose.


Working at height using platforms, scaffolding or extended ladders needs specialist training.

It must only be carried out by people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience.

If in doubt, do not carry out the activity.

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