Safe Use Of Ladders - A Guide
Working at height is dangerous if you are unsure of how to use your equipment efficiently and effectively. Ladder safety is so crucial. Accidents at heights on ladders have been investigated and documented over the past three years by HSE, showing a massive incident percentage of 40%. These falls contribute to around 80 major injuries a year, inclusive of broken limbs, fractured skulls etc. They result in a fatality percentage of 20%, and they are the third-highest cause of fatal injury.
Every single time you use a ladder, you should carry out a pre-use check before you ensure that the equipment and areas are safe for use. The inspection should only be carried out:
■ By the user
■ Before using the ladder for a work task
■ After something has changed, i.e. the ladder has been dropped or moved from a dirty area to a clean area. The state or condition of the feet shouldn't be overlooked
Conducting these checks provides you with the opportunity to pick up on and register any immediate or serious defects before they result in an incident.
Our top tips for ladder safety
Top Tip 1
Do not use the ladder if any of the stiles are bent or split. This kind of damage can cause the ladder to collapse.
Top Tip 2
Check the feet of the ladder prior to use. Do not use the ladder if feet are missing or show signs of wear or damaged. This can cause the ladder to slip.
Top Tip 3
Check the rungs (steps). Avoid using ladders if the rungs are bent, missing or loose.
Top Tip 4
Ensure you check the stiles. Make sure they are not bent or damaged as this could cause the ladder to buckle or collapse.
Top Tip 5
Check any locking mechanisms on the ladder. If any of the locking mechanisms of the ladder are bent or the fixings are worn or damaged, the ladder could collapse. You should always ensure that all locking bars are engaged before use.
Top Tip 6
Check the stepladder platform. If the step ladder platform is split or buckled the ladder could become unstable. We do not recommend that you use ladders in this condition.
Once you have carried out all your ‘top tip checks’, there are also some simple precautions you can take to ensure that you minimise the risk of a fall. For example;
■ Check that all of the ladder's feet are in contact with the ground
■ Carry only light materials and tools
■ Do not overreach or overextend yourself
■ Do not stand and work on the top three steps
■ Ensure all locking devices are engaged
■ Position the stepladder to face the work activity and not side on
■ Avoid work that imposes a side loading, such as side-on drilling through solid materials
■ Where side-on loadings cannot be avoided, you should prevent the steps from tipping over
■ Maintain three points of contact at all times. This means two feet and one hand, or when both hands need to be free for a brief period, two feet and the body supported by the stepladder
There are many different styles of ladders for sale or hire, including general every day leaning ladders, conservatory ladders, combination ladders, roof ladders or GRP fibreglass step ladders. All of which usually share the same safety information. With each set of these specialised ladders, be sure that you follow the recommended safety guidelines above to ensure a safe working environment for working at heights.
Fore more information on ladder safety tips visit Health and Safety Executive.