17th November 2017

Ladder Safety – Are You in Control?

Introduction

As Christmas fast approaches it's time to get the tree up and those Christmas decorations from the store room in boxes. Decorations often get put on high shelves out of the way as this is a seasonal requirement. Decorations needed for the tree and hanging from the ceiling will probably mean reaching for your ladders to assist in getting the height to reach. Have you checked the condition of your ladders recently? Falls from ladders can be a significant hazard to people and we need to consider how best to monitor them.

'Ladders' is a general term which not only includes the standard ladder but could also include step ladders, a step stool, or fixed ladders, i.e. loft or access ladders. Ladders can be fixed or portable.

Are Ladders Banned in Care Homes?

Ladders are not banned in care homes on the grounds of health and safety. Provided ladders are in good condition, well maintained and only used for short periods of time they are perfectly safe to use. They are often ideal for odd jobs of brief duration and general low risk. Sadly, not all ladders are well kept which is why they need to be checked prior to use.

What are the Legal Requirements for Ladders?

Work from ladders would be considered as working at height and thus would be covered under The Work at Height Regulations 2005. According to the HSE, from April 2016 to March 2017 some 28% of all fatal accidents per year were found to be the result of work at height.

Section 4 (1) states that:

Every employer shall ensure that work at height is:

(a) properly planned

(b) appropriately supervised and

(c) carried out in a manner which is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, and that its planning includes the selection of work equipment in accordance with regulation 7.

Section 7 refers to ensuring the environment is safe to operate in and that measures are in place ie: barriers, PPE, emergency plan etc to keep both the worker and those around them safe from harm.

The law requires that under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Section 3 (1)  "Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a) risk to the health and safety of employees they are exposed to at work and (b) and those not in the employers employment affected by the health and safety of the employers actions". Section 3 (2) places a responsibility on the self-employed to do likewise.

Do I Need a Risk Assessment?

The most important thing is to determine if ladders are the only way to complete the task, or if there is an easier and safer way.

Risk Assessments are, as stated previously, a requirement where there is a risk of harm and they are also an essential document to put effective control measures in place to reduce, as far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of significant harm.  A risk assessment known as the HSE five steps would cover the following:

  • Identifying the hazards
  • Identifying who may be harmed and how
  • The risks would be evaluated and the precautions decided
  • From this any significant findings would be recorded
  • The assessment would then be reviewed and updated periodically or sooner if something significant occurred

This is then backed up by a safe system of work – a method of how to use ladders safely.

What is a Ladder Check List?

The most effective way of checking and monitoring the safety of ladders is through a ladder checklist. Some items to consider according to the Ladder Association are:

  1. Stiles must be in good condition as bent or split stiles could lead to collapse
  2. Make sure feet are not worn, damaged, dirty or missing, or else the ladder could slip
  3. Confirm the rungs are not bent, missing or loose to keep your ladder stable
  4. Make sure the locking bars work and are not bent, worn or damaged or the ladder could collapse
  5. Make sure treads are not contaminated or slippery
  6. Make sure platforms on stepladders aren’t split or buckled as it may lead to instability or collapse
  7. Check steps on stepladders and make sure fixings aren’t loose or else the ladder may collapse

Damaged ladders must not be used and, in most cases, they will need replacing.

Some items to consider about the environment:

  • Is the area well lit? Check if any lights are not working
  • Is the surface that the ladders are going to be on level?
  • If outside, is the weather suitable for the task, i.e. is it icy or windy, is the area slippery due to rain etc?
  • Is the area in a traffic route and in need of barriers?
  • How long are the ladders likely to be used?  They are meant for short duration, i.e. no more than 30 minutes and you should only carry light weights

When using ladders consider:

  • Have them angled 1 meter wide for every 4 meters high
  • Never work on ladders in isolation
  • If you have to use ladders more than a few meters high, use over riggers and have an anchor person to check the ladder is secure
  • Always ensure 3 points of contact at all times!
  • Do not use the last 3 steps or 1 meter of an extended ladder

Which Type of Ladder Should I Use?

There are various types of ladder for different tasks. For the purpose of ladder safety, care homes are classed as commercial properties and thus, ladders used need to be to a higher standard than domestic ladders. Your local trade counter will be able to advise on the suitability for your care home . Trade ladders will either be EN131 Professional or simply BS EN131 (Class 1).

Summary

Ladders are safe to use in care homes if the correct measures are in place to protect both the worker and others. A risk assessment is required along with a safe way of working. Ladders need to be suitable for the task and need to be periodically checked to make sure they are not damaged. Never lone work on ladders.

References:

Kind of Accidents in Great Britain 2017 (HSE) http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/kinds-of-accident.pdf

Ladder Association https://ladderassociation.org.uk/

The Work at Height Regulations 2005  Section 4 (1)  & 7

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Section 3

Safe Use of Ladders and Stepladders INDG455

Work at Height INDG401

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Dave Bennion

Health and Safety Specialist

Dave is a multi-sited safety practitioner with extensive experienced in health and safety, fire safety, environmental management, quality and lean management consulting in a variety of industry setting. Dave is also the Director of DGB Health and Safety Ltd based in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

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