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Work At Height -  Guide to the WAH Regulations

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Jul 20, 2010
20 Jul 2010, Ref: 1011040

Ladder Safety 
Many fall-from-height incidents involve the use of ladders. To prevent injuries arising from such incidents, this article aims to provide some guidance on the correct and appropriate use of ladders.
When to use a ladder?
As a first step, consider if working at height is necessary. If so, decide whether a ladder is the most appropriate access equipment compared to other options.
In general, ladders should only be used as a means of access to or egress from a work area, or for light work of short duration. If a task involves extended periods of working at height or with restricted movement and vision (e.g. welding), a step platform is a safer alternative as it is more stable and provides a much larger work surface than a step ladder.
Is the ladder safe to use?
Before using a ladder, check that it is safe to use. This would include ensuring that the ladder: 
  • Has no visible defects
  • Is clean from oil, grease, wet paint and other slipping hazards
  • Has been maintained and stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Is suitable for the activity (e.g. in terms of load)
Figure 1: If it is necessary to work on a step ladder, work a few steps below the top rung, so that a handhold can be maintained.

Figure 2: A step platform can provide a more stable work surface.
How to use the ladder safely?
The following provides some recommendations on the safe use of ladders: 
  • Conduct a risk assessment before starting work to identify the hazards. For example, appropriate actions should be taken to prevent falls from height, as well as reduce the consequences of a fall. Control measures and safe work procedures must be established, communicated and implemented to ensure the safety and health of the workers involved.
  • Ensure that users are competent and trained to use the ladders safely. Workers should be provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. helmet and proper footwear). In some situations, a safety harness, lanyard or lifeline may be necessary.  When using such equipment, a proper anchorage point must be available for its proper use.  

              Figure 3: A ladder with both stiles secured on top                        Figure 4: Footing the ladder
  • Ensure that the ladder is secured firmly in place. Do not site the ladder on loose material or slippery surfaces. Ensure that the ladder is secured at the top using rope or footed at the bottom before usage. An alternative is for another worker to hold the ladder firmly in place while another is climbing. The ladder should not be moved while a worker is standing on it.
  • Do not carry tools in hand when climbing a ladder. Use a tool belt instead. Maintain three points of contact when climbing a ladder (two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet).
  • Cordon off the work area to prevent the ladders from being struck by vehicles, workers or pedestrians. Check that the ladders will not be pushed over by other hazards such as doors and windows.   
  • Check the weather and avoid outdoor work in rain or in strong winds.
  1. Code of Practice for Working Safely at Height, please click here.
  2. Supervisor’s Guidebook, Work at Height Kit, please click here.
  3. Worker’s Safety handbook, please click here.
  4. Technical Advisory for Working at height, please click here.
  5. Safe use of ladders and step-ladders – An employers’ guide, HSE UK, please click here.