Before selecting to use ladders, employers will have made a risk assessment of the job to be done. The initial consideration will have been whether the task has to involve the use of ladders or whether the work can be done in any other way. In some situations it might be sensible to consider whether to eliminate the job for the future.

Consider too the frequency of access and the time required to do the task. If frequent access is required consider whether a permanent access platform with fixed access should be provided. However, if the task is infrequent and only for a few minutes a ladder may be the best option if it can be safely used for the task. It might be appropriate to provide ladder eyes so that the ladder can be secured for the short time that the work takes place.

An important consideration is that the ladder can be put safely in place, will remain stable and that the user is able to maintain three points of contact while doing the work. Step-ladders with working platforms have been developed and a variety of safety devices to increase the stability of ladders are being marketed. They all add to safety and stability but cannot prevent falls where workers do not maintain contact with the ladder or overreach.

Employers are expected to purchase ladders that are suitable for the intended work. They must ensure that ladders are properly maintained and are fit to use.

Ladders and step-ladders should only be used:

  • where the work is of short duration (less than 30 minutes).
  • where the risk is low (the nature of the work would make a fall unlikely, or the fall would be unlikely to cause injury).
  • if they are industrial grade and meet the requirements of EN131.
    for ‘light work’.
  • if they can be secured against slipping.
  • for work that does not involve carrying heavy or awkward tools or equipment.
  • where a handhold is available for climbing the ladder and in the working position.
  • where the user can maintain three points of contact with the ladder.
  • the load on the ladder (user and equipment) does not exceed its rated capacity.

The ladders should also be inspected regularly by a competent person.