In order to use ladders safely at work and comply with the current legislation a fairly straightforward process has to be followed.
1. Identify the tasks that you or your employees need to carry out at height.
Remember work at height means work in any place from which a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. That can mean any height and even work underground.
2. Complete a risk assessment for each task to identify the safest work method.
The aim is to establish whether you have an alternative other than to work at height. If not then you need to identify the most suitable work equipment to do the job. If it is a short job, under 30 minutes, or if there are features of the work site that make other equipment impractical then you can use a ladder to do the job. Ladders are not banned from the workplace but you must ensure that they are the most appropriate piece of equipment to use.
3. Ensure that the people using the ladders are competent.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 is clear on this point – all employers, employees and the self-employed shall ensure that no person engages in any activity in relation to work at height or work equipment unless he or she is competent to do so, or if being trained, is being supervised by a competent person.
Competence can be demonstrated through a variety of means including practical and theoretical knowledge, training and experience. This is important as the quality of the training makes all the difference. ‘Practical and theoretical…’ The training needs both elements so a CD or internet based training course won’t be enough to meet the requirement here, nor will a training course that doesn’t have a strong practical section.
4. Inspect and maintain all your ladders & access equipment.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 stipulate that regular inspections are conducted by a competent person for all work at height equipment. The records of formal inspections are legally required to be made available to a health and safety inspector. Storage of the records must be made in a way which is accessible but protected from interfering or being tampered with by others.
Again that word competent comes into play and it is pretty crucial in respect to the detailed inspection of ladders that must be completed every 3 or 6 months. Ladder inspectors need to be properly trained including practical and theoretical knowledge, training and experience.