The national ladder safety month is helping to create lots of focus on ladders and the correct use them, but why is ladder safety so important you might ask? The answer is quite simple, ladder related accidents in both the workplace and at home are one of the greatest causes of injury and fatalities in both the UK and USA*.
Ladders have been around for almost 10,000 years and are commonplace items to virtually every home and workplace. This, and their simplicity, generates the false impression that ladder work requires no special knowledge or skills – when in fact the opposite is true. Anyone who uses a ladder should be trained and have knowledge about ‘working at height’ to ensure they’re equipped about the range of risks involved and the precautions necessary to prevent injury.
As part of the ladder safety month, we are going to be looking at topics such as Ladder Safety at work, ladder safety at home and ladder inspection. But firstly we are going to start with “what is ladder safety?”
We’d say that ladder safety, is learning and knowing when, where, who, what and how you should use a ladder.
When… is a ladder the most suitable equipment? Has your risk assessment shown that using equipment offering a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered? As a guide, if your task would require staying up a leaning ladder or stepladder for more than 30 minutes at a time, it is recommended that you consider alternative equipment. Short duration is not the deciding factor in establishing whether use of a ladder is acceptable or not – you should have first considered the risk.
Where… a ladder should be used? Is the situation where the ladder is being used safe? Will the ladder be level and stable and can the ladder be secured? Ladders shouldn’t be placed on moveable objects, such as pallets, bricks, lift trucks, tower scaffolds, excavator buckets, vans, or mobile elevating work platforms. Don’t work within 6 m horizontally of any overhead power line, unless it has been made dead or it is protected with insulation. And ladders shouldn’t be rested against weak upper surfaces such as glazing or plastic gutters or doorways/opening doors.
Who… can use a ladder? To use a ladder you need to be competent, i.e. have had instruction and understand how to use the equipment safely. Appropriate training can help. If you are being trained, you should work under the supervision of somebody who can perform the task competently.
What… type of ladder should be used and is it safe? Determine what type of ladder is appropriate for your current work environment. Before using a ladder you need to check;
- Is the ladder suitable to the task i.e. long/strong enough
- all ‘pre-use’ checks are carried out to spot any obvious visual defects to make sure the ladder is safe to use ie. Condition of the feet, any broken or loose stiles bent or worn which could cause the ladder to fail.
How… should you use your ladder? You should never over reach whilst using a ladder and ensure the soles of your shoes are clean to avoid slipping. Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder while climbing. Ensure that you are not tired, dizzy or prone to losing your balance before using the ladder. Use a tool belt or an assistant to convey materials so that your hands are free when climbing. Ensure you use a suitability ladder safety device/anti-slip device.
The above is not an exhaustive list. Please refer to the HSE safe use of step ladders guide, the working at act or the ladder safety month for full details.
*Information obtained from an ALI survey on ladder safety