Blog – Ladder Safety a Step in the Right Direction

By Soni Sheimar,  General Manager, Easi-Dec Limited

As we head towards spring many people will be starting to think about exterior maintenance work such as unblocking gutters, fixing roof tiles, or even cleaning windows.  More often than not this will involve working off ladders, but before taking that first step up the ladder it’s worth thinking about what you’re doing, and whether your ladder is fit for purpose.

It’s estimated that over two million ladders are used daily in the UK and over a third of all reported fall from height incidents involve ladders and step ladders, so it’s vital that the ladders and stepladders being used are inspected frequently to ensure they remain safe to work with.

In the first part of this Ladder Safety post, we look at when to use a ladder and how to make sure it’s safe for use.  Our second part will then look at how to use a ladder, and what products are available to help you ensure you’re using the ladder safely and in line with HSE recommendations.

Do you need to use a ladder?

Before any form of work at height is considered, you should carry out a risk assessment to decide whether the equipment you propose to use is appropriate.

When it comes to ladders and stepladders, ask yourself the following as part of your risk assessment:

  • will the ladder be used in one position for less than 30 minutes
  • are  ‘light work’ tasks being carried out (if you will be carrying anything greater than 10kg up a ladder, a manual handing risk assessment must be completed in order to justify the work)
  • is a handhold  available on a ladder or stepladder
  • can you can maintain three points of contact (hands and feet)

If the answer to any of these is NO, then you shouldn’t use a ladder for the proposed work

Never use a ladder or stepladder:

  • in wet, icy or windy conditions
  • if you AND anything you are carrying exceed the load stated for the ladder
  • there is the possibility that you may need to overreach.  Always keep inside the stiles with both feet on the rungs
  • if the task could unbalance you, such as drilling through brick on concrete, when you’re using a stepladder

What type of ladder?

Once you are sure that a ladder is the right equipment for the work you must make sure the one you are proposing to use is suitable.  Ladders have three classifications so which ladder you use will depend upon the task and load:

  • EN 131: for trade and light industrial use with a static load maximum of 150kg
  • BS 2037/BS 1129 Class 1:  for heavy duty and industrial use with a maximum load of  175kg
  • Class 3:  for domestic use with a maximum load of 125kg. These should  NEVER  be used in the workplace

Safe to use?

Before using a ladder always carry out pre-use checks to see if there are any defects that may prevent safe use.  Things to look out for include:

  • bent, warped, rotten or cracked stiles
  • missing, worn, loose or damaged rungs
  • cracks in the rungs or stiles of the ladder
  • missing, damaged or worn anti-slip feet as these can compromise good grip
  • loose fixings
  • split or buckled stepladder platform
  • items such as stones, grease or dirt stuck in the feet which may prevent the feet from making direct contact with the ground

To be continued

The areas I’ve outlined in this post are just a starting point for ladder safety.   In next month’s post I’ll  look at how to use a ladder safely and what products are available to help you work safely and in line with HSE recommendations.