Fixed Access Ladders – Some Important Considerations

Fixed Access Ladders – Some Important Considerations

07th May 2014

According to some pundits in the industry, the UK has not been quick enough in the use of fixed ladders in multiple occupancy or commercial premises.  Last September the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) disclosed that it had organized a campaign of unannounced inspections and the results left a lot to be desired.  Apparently, the inspections revealed several instances of fixed ladders not being used in a safe and appropriate manner and a number of cases where opportunities to provide safer access to roof areas had been missed.  The spot-check inspections were carried out on more than a thousand construction sites in Britain, with particular attention given to sites being refurbished.

Remodelling or refurbishment of premises presents building owners with an ideal opportunity to improve safety conditions by replacing unsafe (or inappropriate) external ladders or moveable ladders with a fixed ladder system which will vastly improve safety.  According to recent statistics an internal fixed ladder system serves not only to enhance safety, but adds a further, improved level of security to a building.

Long external ladders should be replaced by internal fixed ladders which are shorter and this can lead to a marked improvement in safety, increasing the protection of employees who regularly need to access roof areas to carry out routine maintenance tasks.  Roof access is commonly needed for maintenance and repair of air conditioning, heating or telecoms equipment.  Providing safer roof access should be a main priority during remodelling or refurbishment and internal fixed access ladders make for a much safer option.  Using internal fixed ladder systems (instead of external ladders) also makes it much more difficult for prospective intruders to access a building by using the roof as an entry point.
Any fixed ladder system needs to be suitable for the intended purpose, so the design risk assessment procedure needs to take into account the current standards and regulations.  The location and surrounding environment of the fixed access ladder is just as important as the purpose of the ladder being installed.  Another issue to be considered is the intended users of the ladder and how competent they will be using the ladder.  Frequency of use is another important consideration as the ladder will need to be durable enough to stand up to the wear and tear it is likely to undergo.

Any fixed access ladder will need to be constructed from materials that comply with the relevant British standards and UK safety regulations to provide an adequate level of user safety at all times.  If external fixed access ladders are installed then there needs to be a method of preventing unauthorised access to the ladder – whether this is the use of secure perimeter fencing on a construction site or an anti-climb device if the ladder is installed in a position with public access.

If the fixed access ladders are used on commercial or industrial premises, then Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) dictates that all work at height needs to be planned in advance, with emergency and rescue procedures as part of that plan.