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04 May 2023

person stood on white metal platform step ladder - using ladders in the workplace

Ladders are an incredibly useful and versatile tool that are perfect for a wide range of uses in different settings – however, they aren’t without their risks. Falls from height are the most common kind of workplace fatality, many of which involve a ladder. Even to the most experienced user, ladders can still be the cause of a dangerous accident.

There are multiple helpful ladder workplace safety guides available from organisations such as HSE and The Ladder Association. If you’re looking for a condensed and easy to follow guide on safely using ladders in the workplace, you’re in the right place!


Workplace Ladder Safety

Ladders and step ladders are very useful tools, and are not currently banned or restricted under any health and safety law. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re always the best tools for the job, or suitable for use in very scenario.

When to use a ladder at work

The law states that ladders are best suited for use during low-risk and short-duration (30mins) tasks, and when using equipment that offers a higher level of fall protection is not justified due to the aforementioned low risk and short duration of the task. 

In the workplace a ladder can be used by any competent person; there is no qualification required to use a ladder in a workplace setting. A competent ladder user should be able to:

  • assess the risks of using a ladder

  • know when it’s right to use a ladder

  • identify which type of ladder is best suited to a task

  • know how to safely use said ladder

Using a ladder safely in the workplace

There are a few key principles to bear in mind when considering workplace ladder safety.

  • 4:1 rule: when using a leaning ladder, to ensure the ladder is kept at a safe angle for use (75 degrees), for every 4 units up the ladder should be 1 unit out from the surface it’s leaning against. For example, a ladder 8 metres high should be stood 2 metres away from the wall.

  • Secure the ladder: depending on the surface you’re working against and what task you’re using the ladder for, you must secure the ladder appropriately. Whether that means tying it at the top, near the base, or stabilising the feet, securing your ladder is necessary for helping prevent a slip or fall.

  • Check ladder condition: it’s important to check that your ladder is in good condition before you use it. Are there any visible defects such as dents, rusting, or cracks? Has it been stored in suitable conditions?

  • 3 points of contact: when working on a ladder, it’s advised to maintain 3 points of contact at all times. Contrary to popular belief this doesn’t have to be hands and feet – other body parts such as your chest can be considered a point of contact if you’re leaning against the ladder and using your hands to compete a task.

  • Check locking mechanisms: the locking mechanisms vary from ladder to ladder; for example, the locking mechanisms on a step ladder are very different to a telescopic ladder. No matter what ladder you’re using, you need to ensure that all locking mechanisms are locked every time you use it. 

  • Check your surrounding area: before you get started, you need to ensure that the surrounding area is safe for you to commence work. A few examples of things you should be aware of include the surface your ladder is positioned on – is it level? Are there slip hazards present? Is your ladder in the direct path of oncoming foot traffic or vehicles?

When you’re working at height, both in the workplace and at home, you want to know that you're using the best quality equipment available. Ladders UK Direct stock a wide variety of ladders, from step ladders to extension ladders, combination ladders to loft ladders, you can find any ladder to suit your needs – head over to our website and take a look!

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