Safe Use of Stepladders for Occasional Users

Safe Use of Stepladders for Occasional Users

18th March 2019

Work at height needs to be properly planned and managed as even the simplest activity may cause life-changing injuries.  Work at height is defined as work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.  Work above floor level is classed as work at height, even if the only access necessary is a step stool or small ladder – a fall from even the first or second rung could cause personal injury.   There are so many instances where work at height may be required on an occasional basis – for example, changing an office light bulb, reaching a high shelf, hanging display material, etc.

Most employers provide a stepladder for these types of jobs but, with a third of all reported fall from height incidents involving a ladder or stepladder and causing around 1200 major injuries annually, ensuring that a stepladder is used safely is vital.

A ladder or stepladder should only be used if the task is or short duration (less than 30 minutes) and the work is not heavy or strenuous. 

All risks should be carefully assessed and the work must be planned, organised and supervised thoroughly to ensure that it’s carried out in a safe manner and by a competent person.

The ladder should be inspected before use to ascertain it is safe.  Make sure that the following considerations are taken into account:

  • The ladder should be in good working order with no signs of wear and tear.  Check that stabiliser feet are present and in good condition and that there is no damage or bending on the rungs or stiles.
  • The ladder must be clean and free from grease, dried on paint and other contaminants.
  • The ladder should be strong enough to cope with the weight of the person using it and any tools or equipment they will need to use – a ladder should bear a label stating the highest load it is suitable for.
  • Stepladders should have locking devices that are in good working order and should only be used where there is enough space for the stepladder’s restraining devices to be fully opened.
  • When using a stepladder, the top two steps should not be used for standing on unless a suitable handrail is available on the stepladder. 
  • On double-sided or swing-back style stepladders, where a step forms the very top of the ladder, the top three steps should not be used for standing on. 
  • Anybody using a ladder (even for the shortest period of time) should be wearing suitable, non-slip footwear.
  • When using a ladder, three points of contact (hands and feet) should be maintained at the working position at all times.  If the task to be undertaken does not allow for this (due to the need for both hands to use tools, etc.), then another means of access will be necessary.