Using The Right Safety Ladder For The Job At Hand

Using The Right Safety Ladder For The Job At Hand

19th December 2013

A roofing company was recently fined over £11,000 after one of its employees had a serious fall which was totally preventable.  Following the incident, the company was deemed to have breached the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) when an investigation showed that the equipment used was not satisfactory.  The employee was provided with a two-part extension ladder when a tower scaffold or a more rigid system should have been used.  Furthermore, it was discovered that the ladder used had damaged rungs and missing footers leading the Health and Safety Executive to declare that it should not have been in use at all.  The judge in the case was careful to point out that the size of the fine did not reflect the seriousness of the incident but was set due to the limited means of the company to pay.

This story clearly demonstrates just how important it is to use the correct equipment for the task at hand.  There are so many types of ladder available that it can be tempting to use any ladder that will reach the area that you need access to.  However, this is dangerous thinking, whether you’re choosing a ladder for domestic use or the ladder is to be used for working.  If you employ people, then you have a statutory responsibility to ensure that all the equipment you provide for your employees is fit for purpose.  This is especially true when it comes to access equipment.

Choosing the right ladder for the job is essential and there are several issues to take into consideration.  There are so many types of ladder available in a variety of materials such as wood, fibreglass and metal (aluminium, steel, etc).  You need to consider where the ladder will be used and whether or not it will be resting on an uneven surface.  Is the work area crowded – with either people or materials?  Are there any obstructions in the path of the climb?

Ascent Fixed Access Ladder
You need to select the correct length ladder too – it’s unsafe to use a ladder that is either too short or too long.  When using step ladders, for instance, it’s not advisable to stand on either the top cap or the step below as this increases the likelihood of a fall due to loss of balance.  When using extension ladders the top three rungs should not be used to climb on.  A straight ladder may be too long if the ceiling height stops you from setting it up at a proper angle.  Extension ladders are too long if the ladder extends more than 3 feet beyond the upper support point. 

You also need to take into account the Duty Rating of the ladder being used – this governs the maximum weight capacity that a ladder can safely carry.  This means that you need to work out the weight of the person using the ladder combined with the weight of any clothing, protective equipment and tools and supplies.

If your employees need to use ladders in order to work, whether it’s safety ladders, fixed access ladders or step ladders, then the best way of making sure that you provide the correct ladders to ensure their safety is to contact the experts for advice.