Fixed Ladder Safety Devices: Do You Need Them?

Fixed Ladder Safety Devices: Do You Need Them?

20th August 2019

Fixed ladders provide simple access to rooftops or raised flooring height for maintenance or occasional use. They come in various sizes, from short to very tall ones.

In some circumstances, climbing without protection can dramatically reduce fall hazards. If the ladder is short and if there is no risk of a second fall through a surface or over an edge, climbing without a lanyard is less dangerous than using a lanyard in the first place.

On taller ladders though, the benefits of protection outweigh any potential problems and you should adopt them to protect your employees when working at height.

Ladder Cages

Ladder cages are devices usually installed on fixed ladders taller than 7 metres. They should provide an anchorage point to workers, so they can arrest the fall should they slip off while climbing.

While cages could theoretically serve the purpose if the climber reacts fast enough to stick their arms and legs into the cage to arrest the fall, this practice would still result in severe injuries and broken bones.

Ladder cages might not provide real fall protection, but they do enhance psychological protection, making climbers feel safer.

If you opt for such a system, it is necessary to ensure proper training to prevent misuses that might actually contribute to falling. 

Ladder Wells

Ladder wells are similar to the cages. The main difference between them is the installation.

Whereas a cage is a barrier enclosing the ladder climbing space and secured to one or both side rails or to another structure, a well is a permanent complete enclosure attached to both side rails of a fixed ladder.

Due to the similar nature of these safety devices, ladder wells present the same benefits and hazards as the cages.

Self-Retracting Lifelines

The best safety device to install on a fixed ladder is a self-retracting lifeline. This vertical lanyard is part of a complete fall arrest system and it is designed to be pulled out and retract easily.

An internal mechanism inside the device engages a braking system in case the climber slips off the ladder. This braking system disperses the energy of the fall, limiting the damage to the climber’s body.

At the same time, it arrests the fall over a short distance, preventing most injuries.

When the tension is released, the lifeline moves freely again. Such a system not only limits the fall, but it helps the climber regain balance to continue their ascent or descent as safely as possible.

Bottom Line

Using safety devices when climbing on a fixed ladder might not always be necessary. If you do need them however, using both a ladder cage or well and self-retracting lifelines can provide both psychological security and actual fall protection. If you need constant access to a rooftop, contact us to find the right fixed access ladder and fall protection solutions for your business or residential building.