Inspecting Wooden Ladders

Inspecting Wooden Ladders

22nd June 2016

When it comes to working on ladders, the most important factor to take into consideration is safety.  Here at Safety Fabrications, we really can’t stress that point enough.  Did you know that falls from height are still the major cause of fatalities in the workplace here in the UK?  That’s despite many years of safety campaigning by various organisations and despite the fact that we have some of the most stringent legislation on the planet when it comes to health and safety in the workplace. 

Anybody who uses a ladder in the workplace, however infrequently, should have undergone a suitable ladder safety training course before setting foot on the first rung.  However, that’s not the starting point when it comes to ladder safety.  The whole issue of safety begins with a pre-use ladder check and any ladder being used in the workplace should undergo regular safety and maintenance checks to ensure that it’s safe to use.  Ladders should bear a safety tag of some kind which proves that they’ve been inspected and maintained on a regular basis with the tag clearly showing the date of the most recent inspection.

All employers here in the UK have a duty of care towards all of their employees.  This means that employers (and the self-employed) are ultimately responsible when any member of staff uses a ladder in the workplace.  It’s also the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all items of equipment (including ladders) are safe for use.  For many items of equipment, this means regular inspection and maintenance. 

When it comes to carrying out a ladder safety inspection, what to be on the lookout for differs depending on what materials the ladder is made from.  Today, we’re concentrating on wooden ladders of all types.

Wooden ladders will need to be inspected for cracks and splits on the rungs and on the stiles.  You’ll need to ensure that all of the rungs are present, and are not worn in any way.

Check that the rungs are securely fixed to the stiles and do not wobble – if you can move the rung (even slightly) by hand, then the ladder is not safe to use. 

The stiles will need to be checked to ensure that they are smooth and don’t have any splinters, cracks or splits. 

Wooden ladders are susceptible to warping which can make them unsafe to use.  Warping is usually as a result of temperature fluctuation which is why ladders should always be stored indoors, in a cool, dry atmosphere.

Wooden ladders should not be painted or varnished as this will make them more slippery and could result in an avoidable accident.

All ladders should be fitted with non-slip feet and these should be in good condition – check for signs of wear and tear.

Check for rot and decay in wooden ladders.

If you’re checking a step ladder, then make sure that all of the feet are level when the ladder is spread – the ladder should not wobble.  Popping a folded piece of card underneath to level things out is not acceptable and this solution should never be used.

Check that the hinges and hinge spreaders are secure and in good working order.