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How To Use Ladders Safely

September 15, 2023

Ladders account for 515 serious injuries in the UK every year, meaning more injuries result from the use of ladders than other common working at-height risks including scaffolding, work platforms, staircases and fragile roofs. 

While ladders do serve an important use in many instances, improper use remains a huge safety risk to everyone who uses them. Therefore, taking the time to learn how to use ladders safely could just avoid a fatal accident occurring at your workplace or at home. 

Here are some top ladder safety tips to note, alongside familiarising yourself with official HSE guidance which all employers have a duty to adhere to.

Why Do Ladder Injuries Occur? 

  • Incorrect ladder setup
  • Not using the ladder correctly once in use 
  • Using the wrong ladder type for the job

Undoubtedly, the correct risk assessments and training can greatly reduce the chances of ladder injuries or fatalities from occurring, whatever the nature of the incident.

Likewise, so can follow the manufacturer’s instructions with regards to safe use or safe loads of the ladders in question. 

When To Use A Ladder At Work 

  • For short durations where another alternative (i.e. scaffolding) is not warranted instead
  • On solid and even ground that is also free from dirt or debris
  • Where the required points of contact can be maintained at all times
  • When is it not necessary to overreach to complete the task
  • Where there is no risk of the ladders being struck by moving objects
  • Where the ladders cannot be struck by opening windows or doors
  • Where the general public cannot access the ladders 

There are various ways to scale a building or structure, so the use of ladders is preferred when the duration of the task is short, and the overall risk of a fall is deemed to be low. 

As noted above, this is when the task will take under 30 minutes to complete, and the ground is stable and even. 

When these conditions cannot be met, a ladder is likely unsuitable for the task at hand. 

A pre-check should also be carried out on the ladder before every use to check for any defaults that may compromise the safety of the person using the ladder. Where applicable, the checks should include inspecting the stiles, feet, rungs, locking mechanisms, stepladder platforms and treads on the stepladder. 

If any defaults are found, the ladder or stepladder should not be used and the employer or health and safety officer at the company should be informed. 

Choosing The Correct Ladder Type

Leaning ladders – Ideal for light tasks whereby the ladder height is more than adequate for the task at hand to avoid working on the three top rings. Also, the ladder can be secured against three points of contact on a strong and stable surface (i.e. plastic guttering is a weak surface). Work must not be near power lines and overreaching is to be avoided. 

Telescopic ladders – Extendable ladders which can be reduced to a minimal size for ease of storage. Risks for this ladder type include trapped fingers, so care must be taken when folding and unfolding the rungs. Similar safety guidelines also apply as with leaning ladders with regards to avoiding unsteady ground or unsafe working angles.

Stepladders – For tasks of a smaller height (i.e. indoors). All four points of contact must be maintained at all times, which also requires a level ground surface. The work must not involve standing on the top three steps and their use is only suited to light loads or applications. 

Full safety instructions for each ladder type can be found on the HSE website. 

Metreel – Fall Protection Equipment For When Ladders Are Not Enough

We hope the above advice alongside any official HSE guidance and risk assessments ensures you and your team never suffer an accident due to the use of ladders. 

As noted above, ladders have many limitations since working at height is incredibly dangerous, with falls being leading cause of workplace deaths in the UK.

Therefore, if your team requires adequate protection for working at a height beyond using ladders, then Metreel’s fall protection equipment could provide a safer solution. 

Or to place an order with us please give us a call on 0115 932 7010 or email us at [email protected].