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The Guide to Ladder Safety

Updated: Apr 19

man accessing roof using telescopic ladders

Ladders are commonly used in various workplaces for construction, roofing, window cleaning, maintenance and much more. Ladder safety is very important and anyone who regularly works at height should have the appropriate training and knowledge to keep themselves safe.


 

In this Article:



 

Safe Use of Ladders

 

The safe use of ladders is a piece of guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure people use ladders correctly while carrying out low risk tasks to stay safe. Ladders can be a sensible choice for short duration tasks but they should not automatically be the first choice.

Ladders can be used safely in the workplace and there are a number of precautions workers can take to ensure their safety. It is vital that the right type of ladder is used for the corresponding task and that the workers know how to use the equipment safely. 


 

The 5 Steps to Ladder Safety

 

Ladders are the leading cause of injuries in the workplace. Here are 5 rules of ladder safety to help reduce risk and prevent injuries.


1. Use the right ladder


There are 3 different types of ladder that are used in different situations and you must choose the right ladder to perform the task with minimal risk. Consider your weight, the equipment’s weight and the length of the ladder to the height of the job to ensure safety.


2. Assess the ladder before and after use


The ladders must be assessed before and after the task to ensure it is still safe to use.


  • Is the ladder stable?

  • Is the base of the ladder secure?

  • Is there any structural damage such as loose or damaged rungs?

  • Is there any paint or grease on the rungs which can cause slips?

 

3. Correctly set up the ladder


The placement of the ladder is important. The surface must be level to achieve a sturdy footing, the ladder should have non slip base pads and any doors in close proximity must be locked to avoid anything bumping into the ladder while workers are on it.

Leaning ladders must use the 4:1 ratio meaning that for every 4 feet of height, the base of the ladder must be one foot away from the wall.


4. Use caution when climbing


When using the ladder, workers must face the ladder, stay in the middle and ensure that 3 limbs are always on the ladder at all times. Tools and equipment should be carried with a hoist or belt to keep hands free and you should always be aware of the surroundings.


5. Be safe on the ladder


Always remember the training when on a ladder. Don’t over reach or over hang and never use a ladder horizontally or for something that is not the original intended purpose. Hands should also be kept free and no one should ever move the ladder from below when someone is already on it.


 


The Different Types of Ladder

 

There are different types of ladder and it is essential that the right ladder is used for the appropriate task. HSE guidance provides the following advice when using different types of ladders:


Leaning ladder


  • Don’t overreach or overload the ladder

  • Only carry light items

  • Make sure the ladder is long enough

  • Use the 4:1 rule

  • Ensure 3 limbs are always on the ladder

  • Secure the ladder


Telescopic ladder


Telescopic ladders are a form of leaning ladder but they are extendible and can be retracted down to a small size. They are ideal for small storage spaces and for transportation. Always read the instructions and carry out checks before and after use especially on the lock mechanisms.


Step ladder


  • Make sure all feet are touching a level, stable surface

  • Don’t overreach or stand on the top 3 steps

  • Engage the locking device

  • Position the ladder to face the task

  • Avoid side facing tasks or choose more suitable equipment

Platform Ladders


Platform ladders are similar to step ladders although they have a platform near the top of the ladder. This platform is used to store tools and materials that may be needed for the job, this can be more convenient than standard step ladders as it avoids the worker needing to keep tools in their hands or pockets.


 

graphic showing the 72 degree rule in ladder safety

The 4 to 1 Rule for Ladder Safety

 

The positioning of the ladder is vital to ensuring the safety of the workers and the 4:1 rule must be used. This means that the ladder should be placed 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet of height and the optimal angle for the ladder is 75 degrees.


Ladder safety training will ensure workers have the appropriate knowledge for correctly setting up ladders to a 75 degree angle, the safe climbing techniques and how to inspect the ladders before and after use for any damage.


Please Note: A risk assessment should always be performed to effectively manage and reduce the risk of injury for all workers.

 

 

3 Points of Contact

 

The HSE provides a range of guidance for ladder safety and the 3 point contact is just as important. The 3 point contact requires workers on ladders to always have 3 limbs attached to the ladder at all times. This should be both feet and one hand while the other hand is performing the task.


If a certain task requires both hands to successfully complete the job, workers are advised to support the body by using the stability of the step ladder to take some of their weight. Prior to the task it must be assessed if a ladder is the right piece of equipment to be used to ensure safety when both hands are needed to perform the task. 


 

The Belt Buckle Rule


The belt buckle rule says that you should always keep your belt buckle between the rails/legs of the ladder at all times. This is because leaning over the side of the ladder can cause workers to lose their balance and tip over resulting in injury.


 

Duration of Work

clock graphic

As stated by the HSE, ladders can be used for low risk tasks for short durations of time. However it is strongly advised that if the task is going to take longer than 30 minutes at a time on a leaning or step ladder, that the workers should use an alternative piece of equipment.


The ladders must only be used in a safe environment with a level surface and if required, be secured at the top. All workers who use ladders must be fully trained and competent.


Workers should know:


  • How to perform risk assessments for all tasks

  • When it is suitable and not suitable to use a ladder

  • Which type of ladder to use and how to use it

 

 

Statistics on Ladder Related Injuries

 

Falls from height are the leading cause of injuries in the workplace and makes up for 24% of all workplace related injuries. The main cause of falls from height are ladders and it is reported that there are on average 515 injuries per year caused by ladders due to overreaching, over balancing, misuse of equipment and unexpected movement.


Due to these stats, it is required by the HSE that all workers who have to use ladders must receive training and regular risk assessments must also be performed to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

 

 

Ladder classifications

 

All ladders sold in the UK and European markets prior to 2018 had to be categorised into 1 of 3 standards. These classifications dictated the safe working weights, maximum load and appropriate application.


These were the 3 classifications of ladders in the UK prior to 2018.


Old Standard Classification

Class 1

These ladders were intended to be used for commercial use, they have a duty rating of 115kg and a maximum load of 150kg.

Class EN131

These ladders were appropriate for industrial use, they have a duty rating of 130kg and a maximum load of 175kg.

Class 3

Class III ladders were suitable for domestic use and have a duty rating of 95kg, their maximum load is 125kg and should not be used for industrial or commercial use.


New Standard Classification

Professional

This is for ladders specifically used in a professional working environment.

Non-professional

These ladders are for use at home and in non professional environments such as for DIY jobs.

 

 

Ladder Safety Training

 

Ladder safety training is required in all workplaces that use ladders to ensure all workers know how to safely set up and use a ladder as well as how to conduct a ladder inspection and risk assessment.


The appropriate training aims to increase the worker’s knowledge and skills to effectively reduce the risk of ladder related injuries.


The ladder safety training will include:


  • How to choose the correct ladder for each task

  • How to perform checks on the ladder before and after use

  • How to correctly set up the ladder

  • Guidelines on how to use the ladder safely

  • Risk assessments


There is no legal qualification required to use a ladder but workers must receive ladder safety training and be fully competent to ensure the health and safety of all workers and reduce injuries.

 

Importance of Ladder Safety Training

 

Receiving the appropriate ladder safety training is vital to keep employees safe and injury free at work. Ladders are used for various tasks in the workplace and workers must know which ladders to use for each task and know how to use the ladders properly to prevent accidents.


working at height course card

 

 

Sources


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