Safety Cages on Fixed Access Ladders
One of the most popular methods of providing access in a wide range of situations is the installation of a fixed access ladder. Whether in an industrial setting, or a commercial setting, this type of safety equipment is often provided to reduce the risk of accidents, especially a fall from height. However, there are issues to take into consideration when choosing access equipment and if a fixed access ladder is being reviewed, then the following information can help to ensure that the right access solution for the specific situation is used.
Any fixed access ladder installed in an elevated position to give access to a platform where it is possible to fall more than 2 metres should feature a single safety hoop that is installed at the same height as the top handrail (approximately 1 metre). If the ladder needs to rise more than 2.5 metres, a single hoop is not considered adequate protection and a safety cage should be installed instead.
In cases where maximum enclosure is required (due to the elevated height or other hazards present), one half of the top hoop structure should be extended all the way to floor level for maximum protection.
If the base of the ladder is situated in a narrow landing area, platform or walkway, then a three-quarter safety cage or raised handrail should be added to prevent personnel from falling over the handrail. Any ladder which descends opposite an opening in the handrail should have a three-quarter cage installed.
Fixed access ladders which are more than 6 metres in height should feature an intermediate landing platform which breaks the line of the ladder, preventing a fall to lower levels. However, this rule does not extend to fixed access ladders installed on chimneys and other high structures.
If the user of a fixed access ladder is likely to come into contact with dangerous equipment or other hazards whilst using it, this is a risk that must be eliminated or reduced. One method of doing this is to install a hooped safety cage constructed from components that are strong enough to resist buckling. The hoops on such a safety cage should be spaced at intervals that do not exceed 900 mm and the hoop at the top of the cage should be at the same level as the top guardrail of the platform, whilst the bottom hoop should be 2.5 metres above ground level.
A safety cage that features panels of rectangular mesh wire to enclose the shaft formed by the hoops and vertical flat bars is often the preferable option as this provides an extra level of safety to users.
The safety cage’s hoops and straps should be firmly attached by welding or the use of bolts. Where bolts are in use, the bolt heads should be located on the insides of the straps and should be countersunk to prevent injury to those using the equipment.
Fixed access ladders are not suitable to be installed as a fire escape – they are designed for use in situations where a conventional stairway is not a practical option. All fire escapes should be specifically designed for their intended purpose.