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11 Apr 2020

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Falling from a ladder can lead to injury and even death, so it's important to ensure that your ladder is stable and free of defects before you use it.

But how often should you be inspecting your ladder? Is there a hard and fast rule?


Pre-use checks

You should always carry out a quick visual inspection of your ladder before use. Do this every time you use a ladder, as well as after any changes (e.g. if you drop your ladder).

According to the Health and Safety Executive's ladder safety guidelines, here's what you should be looking for during this pre-use check:

  • Are the stiles (side rails) bent, damaged or beginning to buckle?

  • Are the feet missing, damaged, or too worn to provide adequate grip?

  • Are any of the ladder's rungs bent, loose or missing?

You should also check the ladder's locking mechanisms (if applicable) to confirm that they are in good working order. If using a step ladder, check the platform and all steps / treads to make sure they are stable.

As an employer, you may be held liable if a worker is injured while using a defective ladder, especially if you haven't trained your employees to carry out these crucial pre-use ladder inspections.


Detailed visual inspections

In addition to performing a quick check before every use, a competent person should also carry out a detailed visual inspection of your ladder every few months.

We can't tell you exactly how often to perform a detailed visual inspection - recommendations vary from one manufacturer to the next, so check your ladder's user manual / handbook for advice. As a rough estimate, though, these in-depth checks should be conducted approximately 2 to 4 times a year. If you don't use your ladder very often, carrying out a thorough inspection once a year may be sufficient, but more frequent checks are strongly recommended if you use your ladder more than once a week.

It's important to keep a record of these inspections and of any defects identified.


What should I do if my ladder is damaged?

If you identify any defects while inspecting your ladder, the safest course of action is to buy a new ladder instead of attempting to repair the damaged one.

Remember: using a defective ladder to work at height is dangerous! Falling from even a low height can result in serious injuries (or worse), and seemingly superficial damage can actually be a sign that your ladder is no longer fit for use.

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Photo by Paul Harrison (source)