Safe use of ladders and stepladders
Ladders and stepladders are not banned under health and safety law. EN131 standard for portable steps and ladders.
The law calls for a sensible, proportionate approach to managing risk, and ladders can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks, although they should not automatically be your first choice.
There are simple, sensible precautions you should take to stay safe when using portable leaning ladders and stepladders in the workplace.
Make sure that you use the right type of ladder and that you know how to use it safely.
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 you use alternative equipment.
You should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely, eg where the ladder will be level and stable, and can be secured (where it is reasonably practicable to do so).
Know how to use a ladder safely
To use a ladder, you must be competent or, if you are being trained, you should be working under the supervision of a competent person.
Competence can be demonstrated through a combination of training, practical and theoretical knowledge, and experience.
Training should be appropriate for the task, and this includes knowing:
- how to assess the risks of using a ladder for a particular task
- when it is right to use a ladder (and when it is not)
- which type of ladder to use and how to use it
- how to carry out a pre-use check
The check should include:
- the stiles – make sure they are not bent or damaged, as the ladder could buckle or collapse
- the feet – if they are missing, worn or damaged the ladder could slip. Also check the ladder feet when moving from soft/dirty ground (eg dug soil, loose sand/stone, a dirty workshop) to a smooth, solid surface (eg paving slabs), to make sure the actual feet and not the dirt (eg soil, chippings or embedded stones) are making contact with the ground
- the rungs – if they are bent, worn, missing or loose, the ladder could fail
- any locking mechanism – does the mechanism work properly? Are components or fixings bent, worn or damaged? If so, the ladder could collapse. Ensure any locking bars are fully engaged
- the stepladder platform – if it is split or buckled, the ladder could become unstable or collapse
- the steps or treads on stepladders – if they are contaminated, they could be slippery; if the fixings are loose on the steps, they could collapse
If you spot any of the above defects, do not use the ladder and tell the person in charge of the work.
Where ladders should be used
As a guide, only use a ladder:
- on firm ground
- on level ground – refer to the manufacturer’s pictograms on the side of the ladder.
- on clean, solid surfaces (paving slabs, floors etc). These need to be clean (no oil, moss or leaf litter) and free of loose material (sand, packaging materials etc) so the feet can grip. Shiny floor surfaces can be slippery even without contamination.
- where it will not be struck by vehicles (protect the area using suitable barriers or cones)
- where it will not be pushed over by other hazards such as doors or windows, i.e. secure the doors (not fire exits) and windows where possible
- where the general public are prevented from using it, walking underneath it or being at risk because they are too near (use barriers, cones or, as a last resort, a person standing guard at the base)
- where it has been secured
For further information, consider sharing this brief guide with employees.
Contact us if you have any questions.