An Employer's Guide to Fixed Access Ladders

An Employer's Guide to Fixed Access Ladders

20th June 2016

An Employer’s Guide to Fixed Access Ladders

A fixed access ladder is a vertical ladder that has been permanently mounted to a structure or building.  These types of ladders are usually used to provide roof access or for industrial purposes and are designed and installed in order to overcome the risks that are inherent with portable ladders.  Portable ladders cause over a thousand major injuries and up to 13 deaths each year and until the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) were set in place in 2005 they were often sorely neglected in terms of user training, inspections and maintenance. 

Fixed access ladders are used in many applications in the UK:

·         providing access to rooftops on the outside of buildings

·         providing loft access inside buildings

·         providing access to radio masts, wind turbines and industrial machinery

·         providing underground access in inspection pits and shafts

Section 3 of the Work At Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) covers the main legal requirements involved in each of the regulations, together with guidance on expectations regarding compliance.  The document also contains examples of both good and bad practice.  Compliance (Regulation 13) includes fixed access ladders and clarifies some points for workers, employers and building owners.  However, legislation as far as fixed access systems are concerned is a grey area that causes confusion for many.

 The phrase ‘So Far as is Reasonably Practicable’ (known as SFAIRP) appears regarding inspection of ladders before use.  By their very nature, some Fixed Access Ladders will be difficult to check (both the surface and the condition of the ladder) before working at height because the check itself may involve working at height.

What is clear, however, is that employers have responsibility for the health and safety of their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW).  The HSW is the primary legislation that covers occupational health and safety in the UK.   The Act states that

“it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”.

This means that every employer needs to be aware of all aspects of the HSW and ensure that the safety of employees is the prime consideration at all times.  When work involves fixed access ladders, the employer must ensure that the ladder is safe to use at all times.  However, it’s also the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all members of staff who use ladders have undertaken the appropriate formal ladder safety training required. 

There are several organisations in the UK who provide Working at Heights and Ladder Safety training courses.  Many of these will offer tailored training (covering use of fixed access ladders) with courses that are appropriate for your industry and the specialist equipment that you and your team using during the course of your work.  Choose a provider with a good track record and an in depth knowledge of your industry.  Courses undertaken should be nationally accredited for a comprehensive approach to ensuring safety at work at all times.  You owe it to yourself, your business and, above all, your staff.