HSE’s New Guidance on the Safe Use of Ladders

HSE’s New Guidance on the Safe Use of Ladders

25th September 2017

Here at Safety Fabrications, we’re passionate about safety, ladder safety in particular, and we’re determined to spread the word when it comes to using ladders in a safe and secure manner.  The British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently released some new guidance on the safe use of ladders so let’s take a look at it now.

The first point made in the new guidance is the importance of carrying out a pre-use check on any ladder before attempting to use it.  This is good advice whether you’re used to using ladders on an everyday basis during the course of your work, whether you’re an avid DIY-er who uses a ladder on a regular basis or whether you’re a domestic users who only uses a ladder on the odd occasion.  However often the ladder is used and however often you use it, carrying out a safety check should always be your first action. 

Check the ladder for damage (including broken rungs or stiles), make sure that it’s clean and free of dust, oil, grease and other contaminants and make sure that any moving parts are working properly and that locking mechanisms engage correctly. 

It’s also vital that you minimise the risks with ladders by ensuring that they are properly cleaned, properly stored and transported in a secure manner.  Make sure that your ladder is not exposed to dap conditions as this may cause deterioration or rot (particularly in the case of wooden ladders), causing them to become weak and unstable, so reducing their safety.

While telescopic ladders are finding increasing levels of favour among domestic users, probably because they represent such a versatile choice, it’s important to ensure that they adhere to British Safety Standards.  We reported recently on the fact that an urgent message was sent to tradesmen, householders and DIY enthusiasts earlier this year in a bid to recall 32,000 telescopic ladders which failed to meet basic safety tests.  Trading Standards tested 13 ladders (which manufacturers claimed comply with safety standards) with not a single ladder passing the tests.  One ladder snapped in two when tested by Trading Standards officials and none would withstand normal wear and tear, presenting users with a heightened risk of an accident. 

The new guidelines close with a warning from HSE concerning the number of substandard ladders on the market that are really not fit for use.  These are usually imported ladders, fabricated from cheap materials that are not always strong enough to bear the user’s weight.  They’ve featured in a number of accidents and need to be avoided at all costs. 

If you want to check the standards that ladders should comply with, then take a look at our explanation of the duty ratings on ladders sold in the UK.  All ladders being used here in Britain should bear a British Kitemark sticker which is required to let users know that the ladder meets the relevant UK productions standards.  The British Kitemark is a certification mark from the British Standards Institution which oversees the production of standards and supply of standard related services here in the UK.  A British Standard is a document which lays out the necessary technical specifications and criteria for the manufacture of tools, equipment and other materials in the UK.