Working at Height: Ladders Vs. Scaffolding Vs. Lifts and When to Use Each

Working at Height: Ladders Vs. Scaffolding Vs. Lifts and When to Use Each

03rd October 2019

Fall protection solutions are not one-size or one-type-fits-all in all work at height. One particular equipment will be a better solution than the other, depending on the nature of work. Some instances will favour the use of ladders, and others will favour lifts & scaffolding. Below is a summary of the characteristics at which each of the access equipment: ladders, scaffolding, and lifts can be the most reliable to use. Please read on.

  1. Safety

When it comes to working at height, safety is your most crucial factor to consider. And the access equipment used should be convenient and safest. Operating on ladders and scaffolding is usually more suitable for basic home and industrial height access needs. However, they can be quite dangerous, especially for higher heights. They often require an extra competent person for supervision and regular safety checks.

Adverse weather conditions can also hinder smooth operation of these access equipment, considering the grip and stability. Lifts, on the other hand, require minimum safety checks, have high walls to reduce the probability of falls, and outriggers that can be planted to provide a stable base for extra safety. 

        2. Flexibility

The nature of work at height and the location can require particular access equipment. Some work at height, such as those on pedestrian traffic or public highways, pose more access challenges than others. Use of lifts such as scissor lifts in these worksites enhances efficient navigation of the members of the public since they take significantly less space than scaffolding. Some lifts also take up less space than scaffolding.

Most ladders require less space for installation and can be easily moved from one point to another, making them more convenient than scaffolding and lifts. When looking for a ladder(s) for your home or industrial needs, it’s important to look for safety ladders from manufacturers and suppliers approved by the relevant bodies in the region.

       3. Speed and Efficiency

If you’re using scaffolding to access different parts of a building, you’ll perhaps be dismantling and re-erecting the equipment more often. This requires more time to set up, especially with multiple scaffolds. Plus, the more the scaffolds to erect, the more the staff required. Portable ladders and lifts can be lowered and moved much quicker, hence the less time taken, which translates to more productivity in the workplace.

       4. Costs

Dismantling and re-erecting your scaffolding not only takes more time but it’s also quite expensive paying for the labour. Portable ladders and lifts require less labour and time to move around and set up. If you’ve hired access equipment, the running costs will be escalating constantly provided your workers are still using the equipment. Ensure to dismantle the scaffolding and re-erect it only when necessary.

The Bottom Line

The best way to enhance safety in your workplace when working at height is by ensuring only the competent workers are allowed to operate on ladders, scaffolding, and lifts. A slight mistake or negligence could get you or the people around you injured. Ladder use is usually assumed to require no skill or knowledge, but there’re, actually, proper ways to handle and use them (check out for our previous text on ladder safety for more information).

Before using any equipment, it’s best to always assume you don’t know what you’re doing - even when you’ve used a particular equipment over and over. Stay safe!