By Soni Sheimar, Easi-Dec General Manager
When used correctly, access and roof ladders can provide safe access when working at height. However, many people are not properly trained in their use and end up using them incorrectly, leading to often fatal - and entirely preventable - accidents.
Tips For Staying Safe
We’ve put together a list of our top tips for you to follow to make sure you stay safe when using ladders.
#1 Make sure you, or whichever member of your team is using the ladder, is competent. This means not only having proper training and instruction, but also knowing how to properly put that training into practice.
#2 Each time you use a ladder or stepladder, you should always carry out a pre-use check, looking for any obvious visual defects to ensure the ladder is safe to use. You should also carry out checks after something has changed, such as the ladder being moved or dropped. In your checks, you should:
> Check the stiles for damage, as these could buckle or collapse,
> Check the feet aren’t missing or damaged. Missing feet can cause a ladder to slip,
> Check the rungs. If they are bent or worn, or missing entirely, the ladder may fail,
> Check any locking mechanisms, and ensure all locking bars are engaged,
> If using a stepladder, check the platform, as if it is split or buckled, the ladder could become unstable. You should also check stepladder treads and steps before use.
#3 When using the ladder, only carry light materials and tools (a toolbelt is a good idea) and don’t overreach – make sure your belt buckle stays within the stiles.
#4 Make sure the ladder is long enough or high enough for the task.
#5 Don’t overload the ladder – consider workers’ weight and the equipment or materials they are carrying before they ascend.
#6 Make sure the ladder angle is at 75°, using the ‘1 in 4’ rule (1 unit out for every 4 units up), and always grip the ladder and face the ladder rungs while climbing or descending – don’t slide down the stiles.
#7 Don’t try to move or extend ladders while standing on the rungs.
#8 Never work off the top three rungs of the ladder, and try to make sure the ladder extends at least 1 m (three rungs) above where you are working.
#9 Don’t stand ladders on moveable objects, such as pallets, bricks, lift trucks, tower scaffolds, excavator buckets, vans, or mobile elevating work platforms.
#10 Maintain three points of contact when climbing - this means a hand and two feet - and wherever possible at the work position. If you cannot maintain a handhold, other than for a brief period, you will need to take other measures to prevent a fall or reduce the consequences if one happens.
#11 You should secure the ladder by tying the it to prevent it from slipping either outwards or sideways, and have a strong upper resting point, you could also use an effective stability device such as Easi-Dec’s Ladder Spurs.
Good to know: despite what some people might think, ladders and stepladders are not banned under health and safety law. Quite often, when used sensibly, they are the best tool for the job.
Easi-Dec offers a range of ladder safety accessories -which fit onto existing ladders to bring them better in line with HSE guidelines. More advice and information about safe use of ladders can be found on the HSE website.