HSE Publications: Ladders, Stepladders and Inspection
HSE "Falls from Heights" Website
All work at heights should be suitably risk assessed, such assessments need not prohibit use of ladders but should always consider alternatives and ensure there's no significant risk to the user. If using ladders ask yourself
- Are ladders the right way to do the job? Don't work from a ladder if there is a better way!
- Are they in good condition?
- Do ladders rest against a solid surface and not on fragile or insecure materials?
- Are they secured to prevent them slipping sideways or outwards?
- Do ladders rise a sufficient height above their landing place? If not, are there other hand-holds available?
- Are the ladders positioned so that users don't have to over-stretch?
- Ladders should only be used as a workplace for short-term, light work.
From 31st December 2018, Class 1 and Class 3 no longer apply with ladders classed as BS EN 131 Domestic (for domestic users only) and BS EN 131 Trade and Industrial (workplace use).
The University requires BS EN 131 'Trade and Industrial' Standard ladders for use at work, although older, in-use Class1/EN131 ladders can still be used until they are changed in due course for new BS EN 131 Trade and Industrial ladders.
NOTE: No ladder should have a CE mark on the label as there is no CE certificate scheme for ladders. Some leaning ladders have a CE mark on the label because they can be used as a permanently fixed roof ladder and are considered as a building material and thus covered by legislation that allows the CE-mark. Class 1 trestles remain.
If ladders are to be used, make sure:
- Work only requires one hand to be used.
- The work can be reached without stretching.
- The ladder can be fixed to prevent slipping.
- A good handhold is available.
Make certain there is no other better means of access before using a ladder as many ladder accidents happen during work lasting less than 30 minutes, especially if a tower scaffold or mobile access platform would have been safer and more efficient.
If people have to use a ladder in several places, which requires them to constantly move the ladder, it is possible that carelessness will creep in, the person should also be able to reach the work from a position 1 m below the top of the ladder.
Make sure light tools are carried in a shoulder bag or holster attached to a belt so that both hands are free for climbing. Heavy or bulky loads should not be carried up or down ladders - a gin wheel or other lifting equipment should be used instead.
Check the condition of the ladder
For safe use the ladder needs to be strong enough for the job and in good condition.
- Check the stiles are not damaged, buckled or warped, no rungs are cracked or missing and any safety feet are not missing.
- Do not use makeshift or home-made ladders or carry out makeshift repairs to a damaged ladder.
- Do not use painted ladders, as the paint may hide faults.
- Ladders made for DIY use may not be strong enough for site work and are best avoided.
- DO NOT attempt to repair ladders.
NOTE: All inspections should be recorded
Check the ladder is secure
Ladders are only safe when they rest on a firm, level surface. Do not place them on loose bricks or packing. They should also be secured by rope or other suitable stabilisation devices as these ensure the ladder does not run sideways or slide away from the wall.
Also, make sure:
- The ladder is angled to minimise the risk of slipping outwards; as a rule of thumb the ladder needs to be 'one out for every four up'.
- The top of the ladder rests against a solid surface; ladders should not rest on fragile or insecure materials (eg cement sheet, plastic guttering).
- Both feet of the ladder are on a firm footing and cannot slip.
- If the ladder is more than 3 m long, or used as a way to and from a workplace, it is secured from falling. This will usually be by fixing at the top, or sometimes the base.
- If the ladder cannot be fixed, a second person foots the ladder while it is being used (this also applies while the ladder is being fixed).
- The ladder extends a sufficient height (about 1 m) above any landing place where people will get on and off it unless some other adequate handhold is available.
- Where ladders are used in a run measuring a vertical distance of more than 9 m, suitable landing areas or platforms are provided. The only exception to this relates to some steeplejacks ladders which may not have landing places this often. Nevertheless, provide as many landing places as possible.
Step-ladders provide a free-standing means of access, but they need careful use. They are not designed for any degree of side loading and are easily overturned. Avoid over-reaching. The top step of a step-ladder should not be worked from unless it has been designed for this purpose.