Fixed Access Ladders – Guidelines For Employers

Fixed Access Ladders – Guidelines For Employers

29th April 2014

Fixed access ladders are permanently mounted to buildings or structures and are used to provide roof access for industrial purposes.  They are designed and installed in order to minimize the risks that are characteristic with portable ladders which cause more than a thousand serious injuries (and as many as 13 de3aths) on an annual basis.  Until the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) were sent in place in 2005, inspections, maintenance and user training for those using ladders were often ignored or neglected.

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

  • providing loft access inside a building
  • providing access to rooftops on the outside of buildings
  • providing underground access in shafts and inspection pits
  • providing access to wind turbines, industrial machinery and radio masts.

The main legal requirements and guidelines on expectations with regard to compliance are covered in Section 3 of the Work at Height Regulations.  The Regulations also provide examples of good and bad practice that can be used to gain information on the correct use of ladders.  Regulation 13 covers fixed access ladders with detailed clarification for employers, employees and building owners.  As far as fixed access ladders are concerned, legislation is ambiguous and causes confusion for many.

The appearance of the phrase ‘So Far as is Reasonably Practicable’ (also known as SFAIRP) with regard to the inspection of ladders prior to use is designed to make things easier.  Some fixed access ladders can present problems when checking the surface and condition of the ladders simply because the check itself can be deemed as working at height. This is where the confusion comes into play.

However, what cannot be confused (or ignored) is that employers have a duty of care and are responsible for the health and safety of their staff under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 ((HSW).  The Act is the primary legislation covering health and safety in the UK and 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’.

Every employer in the UK should be aware of all aspects of the HSW regulations and make certain that the safety of employees is the main issue at all times.  If the work being undertaken involves fixed access ladders, then it’s up to the employer to make sure that the ladder is safe to use at all times.  That said, it is also the responsibility of the employer to make sure that any member of staff expected to use the ladder has had the appropriate ladder safety training that is required.

Several companies and organizations in the UK provide Ladder Safety Training and Working at Heights courses.  Some of these will offer dedicated training courses to cover fixed access ladders or courses that are tailored to your industry and any specialist equipment that needs to be used when working.  Make sure you use a provider who has an in depth knowledge of your industry and that the courses undertaken are nationally accredited to ensure safety at work at all times.