Dispelling ladder myths

Despite the industry's efforts to educate people on the safe use of ladders and stepladders, we still come across cases where people are unsure about when and how to use them, so we thought we'd look at some of the common myths when it comes to ladders.

The HSE has banned ladders on building sites

No. This is probably the most common misconception which appears to have come about as a result of a misunderstanding when the Work at Height Regulations were introduced. Ladders and stepladders are often the most sensible and practical option for carrying out tasks, particularly when the use of other equipment is not justified, such as for low risk or short duration (less than 30 minutes) work.  Before using a ladder you must carry out a risk assessment  to make sure that a ladder is suitable, that it's safe, and the ladder being used is free from any defects. 

You must be formally 'qualified' before you use a ladder at work

This is not true, the law requires that you are competent to use a ladder.   This means you should have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to use a ladder safely and properly.  If you are being trained then you should be supervised by someone who can carry out the task competently.  Training can be 'on the job,' it doesn't have to be in a classroom.

You must have two feet and one hand on stepladder at all times

No, but you must maintain three points of contact.  If you need to use both hands briefly to carry out  a task, then you could use your two feet plus your knees or chest to help stabilise yourself whilst working.   You must ensure that a handhold is available to steady yourself before and after the task.

The HSE has banned using ladders to access scaffolds and will fine you if you do

Once again, this isn't true.  Ladders can be used if they are the correct type, in other words, a suitably graded industrial ladder.   The ladder must be in good working condition and tied down to prevent it moving.  The ladder should be extended at least one metre above the landing point to create a secure handhold when stepping off at the top.

For further information on safe ladder use, please see our Blog – Ladder safety a step in the right direction