Top tips for safety with ladders and step ladders

Published: 18th January 2012
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With falls from height reported as being at an all time high, it’s important to ensure you know the basic ladder safety guidelines to prevent accidents and ensure staff members are properly training in working at height procedures.

Around a third of all reported falls from height involve the use of ladders or step ladders.

This equates to about 14 deaths and at least 1200 major injuries to workers every year. The majority of accidents are caused by misuse of ladders or the ladders themselves being unstable.

Using these tips, employers can understand the appropriate times to use a ladder, make an informed decision about ladder selection, understand how to use and look after the ladder and how to take sensible safety precautions by using the working at height guidelines.

The Heath and Safety Executive says that misuse of ladders and step ladders at work is, in part, explained by how they people use at home.

As with all equipment at work, a certain amount of information and training is needed for users of ladders and step ladders.

In order for safe practices with ladders to continue there must be guidelines that must be adhered to.

The below tips, for the most part, do not apply to ladders which are fixed to buildings, vehicles or other types of fixed access ladders.

Take these factors inconsideration when you are deciding whether you need to use a ladder or not and which ladder is appropriate to use.

- If a ladder is not necessary, do not use them. Avoid working at height where possible.

- Prevent falls from height by using all measures necessary to reduce the consequences.

- Where working at height is necessary, access whether the ladder or step ladder is the most suitable equipment for the job compared to other options.

- Use risk assessment to determine this.

Important tips for ladder and step ladder safety

Set up for ladders

- Pre-check the ladders every day – including the ladder feet.

- Secure them properly. The ground should be firm and level.

- A strong upper resting point is vital – NOT plastic guttering under any circumstances.

-The floors MUST be clean and NOT slippery.

Ladders in use

- Work up ladders only for short periods.

– a maximum 30 minutes.

- The ladder should only hold around 10kg.

- The ladder angle needs to be around 75 degrees.

– us the 1 in 4 rule.

- 1 unit out for every 4 units up.

- Grip the ladder properly when climbing.

- Never overreach - your belt buckle must stay within the stiles.

- Make sure both feet are on the same ladder rung throughout the task.

- Under no circumstances work off the top three rungs – this is highly dangerous.

Set-up for stepladders

- Check the ladder for potential problems, including the feet.

- There needs to be space to fully open the step ladders.

- Ensure locking devices are used.

- The ground needs to be both firm and level.

- Ensure a clean, non slippery floor.

Stepladders in-use

- Do not stay on the ladder for more than half an hour.

- Make sure you are only carrying out light work – i.e. 10kg.

- Do not use the top two steps, or the top three steps for swing

-back/double-sided step ladders, unless there are handles to hold at the top.

- Side on work should be avoided.

- Never overreach on a step ladder.

- Keep both your feet on the same rung.

For working at height training or more information on ladders and step ladders visit

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