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6 Simple Steps to Avoid Ladder Accidents…and Fines
Posted by David Cant on July 8, 2014
1 Comment

Ladder Safety in The Workplace

Most ladder accidents happen when you start improvising.

Health and Safety at WorkAs was the case in this example (see picture ) which earned the maintenance company a £10,000 fine, and the worker a £4,000 one.

Arriving at the job, the painter realized even his double extension ladder was too short to reach the ledge.  And he came up with the solution to balance it on his van.

Ladders – deceptively dangerous

We already know 59% of UK construction site fatalities were from falls, and 28% of 6,300 total injuries.

Well nearly half of all site falls are from ladders and stepladders!

They’re used so often, and for so many situations, many workers simply get complacent with their ladders and take risks.  And that ends up being costly… not only to the injured worker.

Fortunately, there are some pretty straightforward steps you can take to make sure your workers don’t join the statistics.

Make sure you follow them, and more importantly – make sure your workers do too.

The six steps of using ladders

  1. Know when to use it

Ladders and stepladders are perfect for low-risk, short duration jobs. When your risk assessment has shown using equipment with a higher of fall protection isn’t justified.

By short duration, as a rule it’s recommended if the job will take more than 30 minutes, use something safer.

  1. Check it before you use it

It’s going to bear your weight, so check it can!

It’s best to pre-check ladders at the start of the day, before use, and whenever it’s been moved.

Check the stiles, which mustn’t be bent. The feet, which shouldn’t be worn or have dirt or soil on them, which could make them slip.

Check the rungs, the locking mechanism, and the stepladder treads and platform, which contribute to the ladder’s support.

  1. Use your ladder correctly

–        Make sure it’s long enough for the task

–        Don’t overreach; and position the ladder so you won’t have to – the HSE recommends your belt buckle stays within the stiles at all times.

–        Only carry light tools and materials

–        Don’t overload the ladder

–        Angle the ladder at 75°; to make this easier follow the ‘one in four’ rule. So 1 unit out for every 4 units up.

–        Always grip the ladder; going up or down

–        Always face the ladder

–        Don’t move ladder while you’re standing on it

–        Don’t work off the top three rungs

–        Don’t balance your ladder on a moveable object; like a van!  Or bricks, lift trucks, scaffolding, etc.

–        Use a tool belt; where possible don’t hold items when climbing

–        Keep three points of contact; a hand and two feet at all times, if you have to let go, like when holding a nail to hammer it in, make sure you’re carefully secured

–        Secure top of ladder; against strong upper resting points

–        Stabilize; stabilize the ladder or have someone holding it at the bottom

For Stepladders

–        Make all four feet level

–        Ensure the locking device is engaged

–        Avoid side-loading work; like drilling, where you’ll be pushing to one side or another. If you have to do work like this, tie the legs to make sure the ladder wont tip over 

  1. Position your ladder carefully

Ladders should always be on firm and level ground.  And on clean, solid surfaces – no oil, moss or leaf litter!  Of course in places where moving vehicles won’t hit them, like vans, pedestrians or opening doors.  And not anywhere where the general public will be walking underneath.

  1. Secure ladders well, where suitable

When you tie, tie both stiles.  If you can’t tie, use a good special ladder stability device, or wedge them in place. And as a last resort, you can secure the foot of the ladder, but it’s the least safe way to secure it.

  1. Secure access ladders properly

For ladders on scaffolding, to reach higher levels, make sure they extend at least one meter above the upper level or landing point – so they’re easy to get off.  And don’t use stepladders for this purpose.

Well, there you go.  All the ladder rules out of the way.  It may seem overmuch to go through all these safety procedures with your workers.  But given how many ladder accidents we hear about every week, it’s something well worth doing!

Got any queries about ladder safety?

Or have you had any bad ladder experiences others could learn from?

Comment below and let us know.

Here’s a more detailed guide to safe ladder use.


Director at Veritas Consulting. 20+ years as a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner with a brain you can pick. A trusted, risk savvy portfolio professional who is fluent in practical advice and an effective workplace solutionist.

You can find him on - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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One Comment

  1. Derek Bailey
    July 10, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    These messages can not be overstated enough about the correct use of ladders.
    Thank You

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