Ladders and stepladders

Incorrect use of ladders and stepladders account for about a quarter of all falls which result in fatalities or major injuries within Britain.  The use of ladders and stepladders is governed by The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (see also Work at Height Section) which set out a hierarchy of control measures which duty holders are required to follow when planning work at height i.e. AVOID working at height; PREVENT any falls from height and, MINIMISE the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur.

Ladders/stepladders should only be considered where the use of more suitable work equipment such as tower scaffolds, podium steps, mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) or temporary stairs is not appropriate.  Ladders will not prevent falls nor minimise the distance or consequences of a fall.  

Where they are used, they should only be used as a workplace for light work of a low risk and of short duration (max ½ hr).  However, ladders and stepladders will still be the preferred method of work for some short duration or tricky jobs where site features do not allow for alternative equipment.  

Carrying out a proper risk assessment will support the decision whether to use ladders/stepladders or alternative equipment.  Generally, the longer or more complex the job, the more likely it is that a ladder/stepladder should be deemed unsuitable.

Useful information on the safe use of ladders and stepladders is contained in HSE leaflets “Safe Use of Ladders and Stepladders: An Employers’ Guide” (INDG402) and “Top Tips for Ladder and Stepladder Safety” (INDG405) which can be freely down loaded from http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg402.pdf and http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg405.pdf