Safety Equipment for use with Fixed Access Ladders

Safety Equipment for use with Fixed Access Ladders

22nd August 2016

Fixed access ladders are used to provide access in a wide variety of applications, especially in industry.  When fixed access ladders rise more than 2 m or if the user is likely to come into contact with dangerous equipment, then the appropriate safety equipment should be provided in order to reduce the risk of falls and accidents.

If possible, a safety cage should be installed with hoops constructed from components that are durable enough to minimise flexing and uniformly spaced at intervals not exceeding 900 mm.  The top hoop should be in line with the top guardrail on the platform and the bottom hoop should be 2.5 m above the ground.  

Hoops should be connected by a minimum of two vertical straps with bracing to support their weight if necessary.  A third strap is recommended to support the back of the hoops.  The hoops and straps should be connected by welds or bolts – if bolts are used then the bolt heads should be on the inside of the straps and countersunk or round headed in order to prevent injury to the user.

All connections between stringers and hoops need to be bolted or welded.  If slings are necessary, then they need to conform in plan to the shape of the hoops.  It is also recommended to provide panels of large, rectangular mesh wire fabric to enclose the shaft formed by the safety hoops and vertical flat bars as an added safety precaution.

If a ladder is installed in an elevated position giving access to a platform where it is possible to fall more than 2 m, then a single safety hoop should be installed at the same height as the top handrail (this is approximately 1 m).  If the rise is more than 2.5 m, then a single hoop is not adequate.

For guiding the user inside the hoops (or if maximum enclosure is necessary due to the elevated position or other hazard), then one half of the top hoop structure can be extended down to floor level.

If the ladder descends to a narrow landing, walkway or platform, then a three quarter cage or a raised handrail should be installed to prevent users falling over the handrail.  If the ladder descends opposite an opening in the handrail, then a three quarter cage should be installed.

The height of any fixed access ladder should not exceed 6 m without an intermediate landing platform to break the line of the ladder and prevent falls to lower levels.  This does not apply to fixed access ladders on chimneys and other high structures.

Fixed access ladders should not be used as a fire escape for members of the public and should only be installed in situations where the installation of a conventional stairway is not practical.