Safety Ladders – Duty Ratings Explained

Safety Ladders – Duty Ratings Explained

07th January 2014

Health and Safety at Work is an important issue in the UK.  We’ve probably all been on the requisite training courses that have been designed to ensure that work practices are as safe as is possible, whatever the industry.  However, health and safety isn’t just about learning best practice (and following up on that) – it’s also about using the right tools and equipment for the job at hand.  This means that the equipment used for any particular task needs to be robust enough to ensure that the job can be done safely without the equipment buckling or breaking in any way.  When it comes to safety ladders, they will need to be fabricated from suitable materials in order to ensure that they are tough enough to take the weight of the workers and the equipment whilst performing any given task.  This is where duty ratings come into the equation.
Safety Ladders
Here in the UK step ladders and ladders are manufactured in three differing classifications (or grades) according to their durability and strength.  All of these grades are within the scope of BS 2037 (which is the British standard for aluminium ladders) and should bear the British Kitemark. The British Kitemark is a UK product and service quality certification mark owned and operated by the British Standards Institution (BSI) whose principal activity is the production of standards and the supply of standard related services.  The BSI Group was founded as the Engineering Standards Committee in 1901 in London.  A standard is a published document containing a technical specification or any other precise criteria designed to be consistently used as a rule, definition or guideline and all formal standards are developed using a period of public enquiry and full consultation.  This incorporates the expertise and views of a wide range of interests from business, industry, government, academia and consumers and standards represent the current best practice.

All safety ladders sold in the UK should meet the required British or European standards whichever grade the ladder falls into.  Class 3 ladders are suitable for domestic use – that is occasional light use with a maximum duty rating of just 95 kg (14 st 13 lbs).  Class 2 ladders are appropriate for what is known as Light Trades – ladders with fairly low frequency usage with a duty rating of 115kg (18 st).  Class 1 ladders are Industrial – this means heavy duty with high frequency use and onerous conditions of use, carriage and storage.  The duty rating (maximum weight of user and tools) is 130 kg (20 st 6 lbs).  
Ladders should be colour coded in order to ensure a simple visual indication of their classification.  Class 1 ladders should bear a blue sticker; Class 2 ladders should bear a green sticker while Class 3 ladders should have a red sticker.  The Colour identification is often used on the rubber feet of the ladders or steps or on the attached warning labels and user instructions.
Choosing the right ladder for the job involves being familiar with these duty ratings in order to ensure that the ladder used is robust enough to be safe.