What is the safest way or method to secure a leaning Ladder ?
Where ever possible a leaning Ladder should be secured in position to prevent it slipping, sliding or twisting away when the user is climbing or working from the ladder.
It should be secured by tying in both ladder stiles to a secure fixed point. The HSE suggest three options to tie in a ladder which are suitable for use when working on a ladder -
tying in at the top, middle or bottom of the ladder. See the illustrations below reproduced from the HSE's "Safe use of ladders and stepladders"...
If it's not possible to safely tie a Ladder in then consideration should be given to the use of suitable ladder stability devices or "footing" of the Ladder, (or indeed, alternative means of access).
The HSE suggest that "footing" should be considered as a last resort if no better options are available. Note! The HSE themselves do not recommend a footing method
and there is some debate as to the effectiveness and most suitable techniques for "footing".
However "footing" a Ladder does not mean your colleague standing with one foot on the bottom rung while checking their phone
- anyone footing a Ladder should concentrate on what they are doing, apply reasonable body weight and force, fix one foot on a lower rung and firmly hold both ladder stiles.
What is the safest angle of lean for a leaning Ladder ?
Leaning Ladders are designed for use at an angle of between 65° and 75°.
Look on the ladder stile for angle indicator label or pictogram. When the ladder is positioned correctly the angle indicator
will be aligned vertically to confirm the correct angle of lean has been achieved.
In broad terms the 1 in 4 rule can be applied to determine the correct angle of lean - for every 1 unit out at the base use 4 units up.
A leaning Ladder should stand on a firm, level and dry surface and should never be rested on a weak structure such as
plastic guttering or glazing.
Ideally a leaning Ladder should be secured at both the top and the bottom by tying the
ladder stiles, (not the rungs), using a rope or straps attached onto a fixed stable point. The purpose of this is to prevent outward slippage or
twisting of the ladder when it's being used. Failing that ask another person to "foot" the ladder by standing at the base of the ladder with one
foot on the bottom rung and holding both stiles while you are working.
In addition consider the use of ladder stability devices where appropriate, (eg. stand off brackets and ladder stoppers), to provide a secure
resting surface and reduce any risk of slippage out or to the side.
How do you safely raise a very long or heavy Extension Ladder ?
If an Extension Ladder needs to be raised a short distance, (eg. 6 feet or less), it can usually be done quite safely once the Ladder is in position.
(Heavier Ladders are often fitted with rope operation to make this process easier to control and complete). However, for longer Extension Ladders, it can be
easier and safer to place the Ladder on the ground and extend it until the required length is achieved.
With care it is then possible to raise a (relatively short) extended Extension Ladder on your own using the following method...
Position the Ladder against a solid surface to prevent it kicking up.
Lift the top of the Ladder above your head.
Carefully walk the Ladder up, rung by rung, as you walk towards the wall.
Slide the base of the Ladder out until the Ladder is at the correct angle.
For longer and heavier ladders it is best to use two people to safely raise the ladder using the procedure shown below...
Place the base of the ladder at the point where it is to stand and ask another person to stand on the lowest rung to prevent the ladder kicking up as it is raised.
Lift the Ladder carefully above your head.
Walk forwards, moving from rung to rung, raising the Ladder as you go.
When the Ladder is upright carefully lean it against the wall and move the base of the Ladder out until it stands at the correct angle.
The correct angle of lean for a leaning ladder is 65° to 75° and is referred to as the "safe working angle".
What factors should be considered as part of a Ladder or Stepladder's pre-use check ?
A Ladder or Step should always be checked by it's user prior to use and the essentials of a pre-use check
should be covered as part of a user's Ladder Safety Training. So what are the key things to look for as part of a ladder safety check ?
As we've seen previously, (What should you do before using a Ladder ?), it's crucially important to check a ladder's feet are clean and
in good condition before use. Particular attention should be paid to ensure feet are free from any contaminants such as mud, grease or oil. The same check should be
applied to the Ladder rungs, treads and stiles, also checking to see that there aren't any cracks, dents or other damage to these components.
Timber Ladders should be checked to ensure the tie rods are in
place and secure. Glassfibre Ladders should be checked for cracks or splits in the fibreglass and metal Ladders should be checked for cracked or damaged welds.
Rungs and treads should be checked to see they are all in place and secure together with checks for any missing or loose screws, nuts, rivets and fittings.
Rope operated Ladders should be checked for frayed rope or any other damage to the ropes or pulleys. Stepladder stays should also be checked to see they are securely attached and in good condition.
Question: What if a pre-use check uncovers a defect or problem with a Ladder or Step ?
Answer: DON'T USE IT!
A damaged Ladder or Step should be removed from use and quarantined until it can be rectified or repaired in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
Note any associated equipment used in conjunction with a Ladder or Step should also be pre-use checked in line with the manufacturer's guidance,
(eg. ladder stabiliser devices, stand off brackets and similar).
How do you keep yourself safe before using a Ladder or Stepladder to complete a task ?
Before using a Ladder or Step you should always complete a pre-use check to ensure the equipment is in good condition and fit for purpose.
This check should be conducted on each occasion that a Ladder or Step is used and undertaken by the user of the equipment.
A check should also be completed everytime
something changes eg. if a ladder is dropped or knocked, or it is moved between unclean and clean environments.
The benefit and purpose of these checks is to immediately pick up any potential hazards or damage which could have a direct affect on the safety
or otherwise of the Ladder or Step. For example a pre-use check should immediately pick up any obvious visual defects, (eg. damaged treads, rungs, stiles, stays and feet).
Particular attention should always be given to Ladder and Stepladder feet - these are crucial to the safety of a Ladder or Step and
should always be checked to ensure they are clean and in good condition. Feet which are missing, split, insecure or worn will have a direct affect on the stability
and safety of a ladder or step.
What are the most common reasons for accidents and falls involving Ladders and Steps ?
According to the latest HSE statistics (2016/2017), falls from height are one of the single biggest causes of fatalities at work and also
account for an estimated 37,000 cases of non-fatal injury.
Common reasons for ladder and stepladder accidents include:
Slipping or losing your footing on a ladder rung or step tread
A leaning ladder slipping away at either the top or bottom of the ladder
A leaning ladder flipping or coming away from the resting surface
An unbalanced stepladder due to uneven ground, missing feet or being incorrectly opened
Using a stepladder side-on to a work task
The main contributing factors are often due to poor planning or the use of inappropriate equipment for the job in hand - factors which can be addressed with appropriate ladder safety training.
Assuming the ladder or stepladder is in good condition and fit for purpose, users should be wearing sensible footwear free from mud or other contaminants likely to cause a slip; the ladder or stepladder
should be set up correctly on level, firm and stable ground; the ladder or stepladder should be stabilised and tied in as appropriate; the ladder or stepladder should not be used in inclement or windy weather conditions
and the task in hand should be undertaken in a safe and controlled manner utilising three points of contact.
A revised EN131 product standard is due to be introduced to the European market on 1st January 2018 - how will this affect ladder users ?
The revisions to the European EN131 Ladder Standard are intended to enhance safety and are primarily focused on improvements to ladder stability and durability.
The new standard introduces two new ladder classifications - "EN131 Professional", (intended for use in the workplace), and "EN131 Non-Professional", (intended for domestic use).
Although both of these classifications will specify a minimum loading capacity of 150kg, (as per the existing EN131 Standard), the EN131 Professional Standard will be subject to more stringent test loads and strength requirements.
So what do these changes mean for ladders users ?
Any changes in product standards are not applied retrospectively so ladders certified to existing standards, (eg. BS1129, BS 2037 and the current EN131 Standard), are perfectly legal.
As long as your ladders are in good condition and fit for purpose there is no immediate need to replace or exchange your ladders.
When the new standard is introduced there will be a transition period in place allowing manufacturers time to adapt their products to meet the new standards.
During this period, as existing ladder stocks certified to the current BS1129, BS2037 and EN131 standards are depleted, stocks will be gradually superseded with ladders certified to the new standards.
When shouldn't you select a Ladder or Stepladder as the most suitable piece equipment for access ?
Before any task a risk assessment should be conducted to evaluate the potential hazards. The identified levels of risk should then be removed or minimised through the use of appropriate control measures.
It may well be the case that a Ladder offers the most suitable means of access - equipment providing a higher level of fall protection may not be justified due to the level of risk and the
length of time involved in the task.
However, RISK is the most important consideration.
As a general guide a Ladder should not be used where a task involves...
being in one position for more than 30 minutes
heavy duty or strenuous work, or carrying more than 10kg up the ladder or step
being unable to place the ladder in a safe, stable and level position
no handhold being available on the ladder or step
the operative being unable to maintain three points of contact in the working position, (hands and feet)
Our Ladder and Stepladder Safety Training courses highlight all the important considerations that must be made before selecting and using a Ladder or Stepladder. Contact us for further information.
Have Health and Safety Regulations banned the use of Ladders as a means of access ?
No, ladders are not banned or outlawed under health and safety law.
Ladders can often provide the most appropriate and practical option for low-risk, short duration tasks. It is important though that users have appropriate training and instruction in the correct and safe use of equipment.
The Health and Safety Executive, (HSE), in their guide "Safe use of ladders and stepladders", state that "to use a ladder you need to be competent, ie. have had instruction and understand how to use the equipment safely".
Training can take place on the job and if you are being trained, then it's important you work under the supervision of a person who is qualified or is capable of performing the task competently.
Independent training provides employer's with the assurance that staff who have successfully completed appropriate training are deemed to be "competent and capable".
Where to find Ladder and Stepladder Safety Training ?
Looking for Access Equipment Training covering the safe use of ladders, steps or scaffold towers ?
Here at the UK Ladder and Safety Training Company we provide training throughout the UK at any of our national training centres
(London, Midlands, Belfast and Glasgow). Alternatively we can provide on-site training at a client's preferred location.
The UK Ladder and Safety Training Company has been delivering Ladder and Step safety training courses to client's from all areas of industry for more than 40 years.
As a division of the Clow Group Ltd., we're backed by one of the most respected ladder manufacturers in the UK.
We have the ability to tailor training courses to match client's exact requirements.
With the experience and knowledge to provide first class training, employers and employees can be confident that successful candidates have tha ability and knowledge to
correctly and safely use ladders, steps and scaffold towers.