How to manage ladder safety

Workers and people who rarely use ladders, are at higher risk during work at height, due to a false sense of ladder safety competence.

The UK Ladder Association offers five checkpoints for safe temporary height access; use the right ladder; check the ladder’s and equipment’s condition; position the ladder correctly; use a ladder instead of a stack of tables and chairs; keep your body in upright position and do not stretch up or lean over.

Use the right ladder for the job
The best way to access a loft or mezzanine floor is by using a properly installed loft ladder that conforms to BS EN 14975. Stepladders, in turn, conform to BS EN 131 or BS2037. Step stools conform to BS EN14183.

There are some very good passive height access equipment on the market, such as ladder jacks, or make your own, such as an adjustable lean-to scaffold, for regular jobs.

Never use a step ladder leant against a wall. They are not designed to work like this and they can easily slip or even break

Never use a loft ladder that is not correctly installed, it could collapse if it is not properly fixed at the top.

Stepladders are not designed for getting to another surface and they can be very unstable when used in this way.

If you don’t have a properly installed loft ladder, use a leaning ladder and install some strong tie points to secure the ladder and prevent it tipping or slipping. Shiny laminate wood flooring, loose rugs or runners can cause the feet of the ladder to slide.

A leaning ladder should project one metre above the loft floor to give a handhold when stepping on and off.

Get someone to help you so that you can pass tools and materials up and down, rather than trying to carry them. Keep a firm grip on the ladder when climbing and wear good safety shoes, not socks or barefoot.

Check the ladder condition
Check the ladder before you use it. Make sure all the treads are secure, and the ladder is generally in good condition.

Cracks, missing screws, additional nails, replaced rungs, bends, repairs and modifications are early warnings of incidents that are usually severe, and even fatal. Remove defective ladders from service, lock them away, disable, destroy, and replace them.

Position the ladder correctly
Install some strong tie points in the walls and on the leading edges where ladders are often used. As a last resort get someone strong to hold the ladder.

Make sure a leaning ladder is tall enough to do the job. Never stand on the top three rungs. Keep both feet on the same rung when working and keep your belt buckle inside the sides of the ladder.

Use ladders, not tables and chairs
Stacks of items are typical of incident investigations, meaning that they usually lead to incidents and injuries.

Never stretch your body up or over
Us a ladder that is tall enough and don’t stretch up or out to reach work areas. Keep your belt buckle inside the sides of the ladder and below the top. Overreaching will make the stepladder unstable and cause it to overturn.

If you cannot reach the top then get a taller step ladder. You can stand on the platform of a platform step ladder but never stand on the knee or handrail. Never stand on the top three treads of a step ladder which does not have a platform.

Get down and move the ladder as the work proceeds. Get someone to help, remove obstacles, and maintain a calm and serious attitude. Risk of incidents and injury is not a laughing matter.

• Source; UK Ladder Association.
• See other posts about work at height on Sheqafrica.com, relevant to SA law at http://sheqafrica.com/ladder-safety-steps/and at http://sheqafrica.com/work-at-height-registration/

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.