Health & Safety Essentials: Safe Working With Ladders and Step-Ladders

Peninsula Team

May 03 2018

Each year falls from height result in fatal and major injuries, but there’s a misconception that only falls from a great height cause injury – which is not the case. There are almost as many low-height falls reported as a cause of injury as there are high falls. Here we take a look at regulations and your duties relating to working with ladders... Last year there were 47 work-related fatal accidents. While the foremost cause of death was accidents involving vehicles, the next highest number of incidences was due to falls from height. Employer duties In addition to the general duties to protect employees and others from risks to their health and safety at work, there are specific regulations applying to working at height. They require employers to avoid work at height whenever possible – and where it can’t be avoided, they must use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls. Where the risk of a fall cannot be eliminated, employers must use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur. Working at height means work in any place (except a staircase in a permanent workplace) where a person could be injured by falling from it, even if it is at, or below, ground level. The regulations require employers to ensure that:
  • All work at height is properly planned, organised and supervised
  • A risk assessment is carried out
  • The place where work at height is carried out is safe
  • Appropriate work equipment is selected, used, maintained and inspected
  • Weather conditions are taken into account
  • People working at height are competent
  • Risks from fragile surfaces and falling objects are properly controlled
  • Emergency or rescue procedures are in place
Guidelines for use When using a ladder or step-ladder, employees should ensure they follow these guidelines in order to minimise any risk:
  • The work must be a single short duration task – 15-30 minutes maximum
  • Do not carry heavy weights, and limit a load of materials and tools to 10kg max
  • Keep a secure handhold and don’t over-reach
  • Keep both feet on the same rung or step throughout the task
  • Do not work off the top 3 rungs – the top of the ladder provides a handhold
  • Always keep three points of contact with the ladder
  • Prevent the ladder from slipping or moving: tie the top of the ladder to the supporting structure and make it secure
  • Do not just get someone to foot the ladder, as footing a ladder can make it more unstable
Final thoughts Always remember that using a ladder is the last resort – always use other access equipment, such as a fixed scaffold, scaffold tower or cherry picker if at all possible. Peninsula has developed a work at height checklist to assist you in planning for work at height operations safely. This checklist can be included as part of your risk assessment. If you have any questions regarding health & safety at work or the topics in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0818 923 923

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