Working safely at height

Preventing falls should be actively managed so that people working at height are kept safe.

We have produced guidance on working safely at height. 

While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

We also have guidance on working safely on roofs and equipment:

Working safely on roofs

Equipment for working at height

Guidelines

Best practice guidelines for working at height in New Zealand

Best practice guidelines for working at height in New Zealand outline best practice methods for assessing the hazard of working at height and the control methods for preventing falls.

Working at height in New Zealand

Industrial rope access in New Zealand: Best practice guidelines

Industrial rope access in New Zealand: Best practice guidelines describe safe rope access techniques when working at height in a variety of situations. The guidance also covers the design, installation and certification of permanent anchors and anchor systems, and the selection and maintenance of rope access equipment. It does not apply to fall arrest, recreational situations, arboriculture or emergency services rescue work.

This guidance was prepared by the Industrial Rope Access Association of New Zealand (IRAANZ) and endorsed by us.

Industrial rope access in New Zealand: Best practice guidelines  (PDF 1.7 MB)

While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

Fact sheets

While the fact sheets below have not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe. Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU.  This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

Fact sheet 1: Planning a safe approach to working at height

Fact sheet 1: Planning a safe approach to working at height provides guidance on how to plan safe working at height by identifying and assessing the hazards and monitoring and documenting your approach.

Planning a safe approach to working at height (PDF 450 KB)

Fact sheet 2: Selecting the right equipment for working safely at height

Fact sheet 2: Selecting the right equipment for working safely at height provides guidance on the steps you need to put in place to control the risk of hazards and keep people safe. It features checklists for using working at height equipment and maintenance, and identifies issues to consider when selecting equipment.

Selecting the right equipment for working safely at height (PDF 326 KB)

Fact sheet 3: Short duration work at height

Fact sheet 3: Short duration work at height provides guidance on planning a safe approach for work that can be completed in minutes rather than hours. This includes assessing and controlling height hazards, as well as planning the work and selecting the right controls.

Short duration work at height (PDF 47 KB)

Fact sheet 4: Edge protection

Fact sheet 4: Edge protection provides guidance on providing edge protection to help prevent people, tools and material from falling. It outlines when edge protection is required, and how to install various types of protection safely.

Edge protection (PDF 81 KB)

Fact sheet 5: Temporary work platforms

Fact sheet 5: Temporary work platforms provides guidance on the different types of temporary work platforms and which one to use. It provides information on the safe use of scaffolding, trestles and stools, podium, folding and step platforms, and constructed 

Temporary work platforms (PDF 507 KB)

Fact sheet 6: Total restraint system

Fact sheet 6: Total restraint system provides guidance to help you select and use a total restraint system (sometimes referred to as a travel restraint system) for working safely at height. It emphasises the importance of training and how to get it, and compares total restraint and fall arrest systems.  

Total restraint systems (PDF 188 KB)

Fact sheet 7: Be safe working on roofs

Fact sheet 7: Be safe working on roofs features a checklist for working safely on a roof and provides guidance on how to control hazards, including edge protection, and eliminating or isolating the hazard of a fall from a roof. 

Be safe working on roofs (PDF 294 KB)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it now illegal to use a 3-step ladder or a saw stool?

Generally saw horses or saw horses with planks are not recognised as suitable work platforms, as they have not been designed for this purpose. The exception to this rule would be if the equipment was purposely designed and manufactured for this use and meets a relevant Standard.

If you work above 800mm do you have to be harnessed or the property fully scaffolded?

For low-risk, short-duration tasks, scaffolding or a harness is unlikely to be required.

Podium ladders, light weight mobile work platforms, fall arrest soft land systems and safety nets or mesh in addition to harnesses and scaffolding.

Measures selected need to be proportionate to the risk.

What is the maximum height I can use my ladder?

The Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1892.1. Portable Ladders sets the following limits for ladder heights:

for temporary non-fixed ladders the maximum length for:

  • a single ladder is nine metres
  • an extension ladder is 15 metres
  • a step ladder 6.1 metres.

where a ladder rises nine metres or more above its base, landing areas or rest platforms should be provided at suitable intervals.

Ladders should be used for low-risk and short-duration tasks, and three points of contact should always be maintained to prevent a person slipping and falling.

The risk of falling onto something below a ladder (e.g. spiked railings or glass covering) is equally relevant as the height of the potential drop in terms of risk.

Can I walk on the top plate without any fall protection?

No. At no time is any person to stand on or work from an external wall top plate without suitable fall protection. This must be considered as part of your planning for a safe approach to working at height.

If prefabrication of the roof structure is not possible and trusses are assembled in situ, a safe working platform (such as scaffold) should be provided around the perimeter of the framing.

Measures to prevent or mitigate the distance of a fall must also be provided internally. This can be achieved by providing a working platform immediately beneath the underside of the trusses.
Either conventional scaffolding, or (if appropriate) proprietary decking systems can be used. The use of safety mesh or other safety rated products that can span across the top of the framing can also be used.

Alternatively, if a safe internal working platform cannot be provided, safety nets can be used if a safe clearance distance below the net and a suitable fixing point can be achieved.

Alternatives to nets are soft landing systems such as bean bags or air bags. In some circumstances safe clearance distance can be achieved by locating bracing of the framing on the outside of the structure.