Fixed Access Ladders – What You Need To Know

Fixed Access Ladders – What You Need To Know

02nd December 2013

A recent article in Roofing, Cladding and Insulation Magazine has revealed that the UK is too slow in adopting the use of fixed access ladder in commercial and multi-occupancy buildings.  The UK Health and Safety Executive’s September campaign of unannounced inspections discovered unacceptable numbers of instances of unsafe ladder use and industry pundits believe that many opportunities to update safer access to roof areas have been missed.  During September, 2013, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out a series of unannounced inspection visits to more than one thousand  construction sites in the UK, most of these being in the refurbishment sector.

Refurbishment should be seen as an opportunity to improve safety by replacing unsafe moveable ladder systems or external ladders with a much safer, fixed option.  Statistics demonstrate that internal ladders are not only safer, but they lead to enhanced security as well.  

By replacing long external ladders with shorter internal fixed ladders, companies can help to safeguard employees who need access to roof areas in order to carry out routine maintenance procedures.  This will also help to ensure increased safety during repairs to heating, telecoms and air conditioning equipment.  The use of internal ladders offers the added bonus of enhanced security by denying prospective intruders access to a building via the roof.  With safer roof access being a main priority during refurbishment work, internal fixed access ladders need to be a major consideration for improving safety in the workplace.  

All fixed ladder systems need to be designed to be suited to their intended purpose and a design risk assessment will need to take into consideration relevant standards and regulations.  Issues that need to be taken into account include:

Man on Fixed Access Ladder
The type of structure to which the fixed access ladder is to be fitted

•    Location
•    Environment
•    The purpose of the ladder system
•    The intended users (including their competence in using the ladders)
•    Intended frequency of use
•    Cost

The type, dimensional arrangements and materials used in a fixed access ladder will need to comply with all the relevant UK regulations and British standards to ensure user safety at all times.   Any external fixed ladders will require some means of preventing unauthorized access. This may be the installation of a suitable anti-climb device or the use of secure perimeter fencing on the site.
UK legislation (the Work at Height Regulations 2005) requires that all work at height must be properly planned in advance and that emergency and rescue procedures are also planned for.  Weather conditions must be taken into account as they could pose a risk to the health and safety of employees who are working at height.

There is also a legal requirement that those working at height must have undergone adequate training, not generic training but a form of training that takes into consideration the tasks at hand.  Trainees need proper supervision during training.  Working at height training should also include training in how to avoid falling and how to avoid or minimise injuries in the event of a fall.