Ladder Safety Inspections – The Basics

Ladder Safety Inspections – The Basics

06th January 2014

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that nearly a third of all injuries involve falls from ladders and this can cost the UK economy as much as £60 million per year.  In fact, the average number of deaths per year caused by falls from ladders is 14.  Although this number may seem small in the grand scheme of things, just one death that could have been prevented is one too many – especially for the deceased and their friends and family.  Falls from ladders are usually found to be preventable and are usually caused by one of the following:

•    Ladders not secured correctly and efficiently
•    The ladder falls or slips due to the user over-reaching
•    The poor condition of the ladder.

The first two causes can only be addressed by ensuring that ladder users undergo the correct training in use of ladders.  This will enable them to minimize the risk when working at height.  However, a ladder that’s not fit for use is a cause that must be addressed by the owner of the ladder – or the user before embarking on any work.

•    Here are some issues to take into account when performing a ladder safety check.                                        
•    Ladder stiles (the long vertical side pieces that the rungs are attached to) need to be checked for dents, splinters or creases.   Any deformed stiles are a sign that the ladder may bend or even snap under pressure which means that the ladder is not fit for purpose.
•    Check the ladder feet for wear or damage.  Any worn, damaged or missing feet mean that the ladder will not be able to rest safely on a flat surface and should not be used.
•    Rungs and steps need checking – bent, missing or splintered rungs are a weak point and could snap under use, undermining the structural integrity of the ladder.
•    Side stays, handrails and braces on step ladders need to be checked to ensure that they are undamaged and firmly attached.
•    The platform on a step ladder forms part of the structural integrity – it should not be bent or loose and the platform support bar needs checking for damage or weakness.
•    A general check for loose rivets, cracks and splinters should be performed.
•    Ladders should not be painted – paint can cover damage and deformities.   Ladders should only be treated with a clear preservative in order to keep defects visible.    

Any employer or self employed person in the UK has a duty where there is risk of falling.  Nowadays it is a legal requirement to display a ladder inspection label to show that the ladder is safe to use.  There are two different ladder inspection labels.  The first label is a ‘passed’ label in green or blue and means that the ladder is safe to use.  However, a red label is a ‘failed’ label – it will show the ladder inspection date and the name of the person who carried out the inspection.  This label clearly states that the ladder has failed the safety inspection and is not safe to use.