Health, Safety & Environment Consultants

Ladder Safety


We see ladders used all the time, in all different business types. From offices and retail stores to warehouses and construction sites, many businesses rely on the use of ladders. However serious injuries can occur through the misuse of ladders.

In 2017 the Health and Safety Executive released figures on the kinds of accidents that occurred in Great Britain for the 5 year period 2012/13 - 2016/17. Falls from height accounted for 28% of fatal injuries during this time period, which was more than any other accident kind. This equated to 40 people losing their life from a fall from height in this 5-year period. It was also found that falls from height accounted for 7% of non-fatal injuries, equating to 43,000 injuries from falls from height.

It is clear to see from these figures that falls from height are a considerable risk to businesses. As such it is important to ensure the use of ladders is effectively managed in the workplace.

Before use, it is important to establish what you are using the ladder for. Ladders are a great choice for low risk, short duration tasks. Ensure the task has been suitably risk assessed prior to work to establish if a ladder is the suitable tool to use. The risk assessment may also identify some form of fall arrest protection be used in certain circumstances. If a working platform is needed the use of alternative methods for access should be considered. Fixed scaffold, mobile scaffold towers and mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) offer safer working conditions, provided the equipment is inspected, erected and used by trained staff.

Ladders can be made or many materials (most commonly aluminium or wood, and also glass fibre). Aluminium ladders should be avoided if working near live electricity. Glass fibre ladders can be used near electrical equipment and in food processing areas. There are currently 3 classes of ladder. Industrial Duty (Class 1, BS2037) designed for a maximum static vertical (safe working load) load of 175kg (27.5 stones), Trade Duty (EN131, previously class 2) with a maximum static vertical (safe working load) load of 150kg (23.5 stones), and Domestic Duty (Class 3) designed for a maximum static vertical (safe working load) load of 125kg (19.5 stones). Ensure you pick the correct rated ladder for the job.

Ladders should always be inspected prior to use. Wood ladders should never be painted as this could hide cracks and defects. Checks should be performed of all ladders prior to use. Check the feet, stiles, rungs, any locking mechanisms, and if a step ladder checks for defects to the platform. If any defects are noted, the ladder should not be used. 

Ladders and step ladders should be placed on even surfaces so that there is no movement of the feet of the ladder or step ladder. Ladders should only be used for inspections, access and short periods of time. Where possible, ladders should be tied off.

If working near overhead power lines, never work within 6 m horizontally of any overhead power line, unless it has been made dead or it is protected with insulation. Ladders made from non-conductive materials, such as wood or fibreglass, should also be used in this situation.

Prior to climbing a ladder be sure it is placed at an angle of 75° - you should use the 1 in 4 rule (i.e. 1 unit out for every 4 units up).

When climbing a ladder, always keep 3 points of contact, and never overreach whilst using a ladder. This can cause the ladder to become unstable, and the feet of the ladder to move from underneath the worker. The working platform is designed for the placing of small items of equipment. Never stand on the working platform, as this could cause the ladder to become unstable, and lead to the user falling.

If you need to move or extend the ladder, never attempt to do so whilst standing on the rungs. Always climb down, keeping 3 points of contact at all times, and reposition the ladder from the ground.

It is important that any employee that is using a ladder has had correct training in the inspection and use of ladders to avoid a potential accident.

Ladders are fantastic tools in the workplace. If you use ladders in the workplace, be sure you have risk assessed the task and addressed ladder safety with your workforce.

If you need help with ladder safety or any part of your health and safety management system, contact us to find out how we can help you: or 01843 6399711.

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