Working at height often requires use of a ladder: they are safer than standing on a chair or tiptoes, for example. However, there are definitely times when you should not use a ladder, so we’ve put together a guide to determining when it is not safe to use a ladder.
Safe Use of a Ladder
To ensure you only use a ladder when it’s safe to do so, avoid using the ladder in these situations:
- In unsafe working environments, such as wet and windy weather conditions, where the ground is unstable, or when the ladder cannot be secured
- When the work at height will take longer than 30 minutes
- If you have not been trained to use a ladder at work
- If the ladder is unsafe to use, e.g., if it is wobbly, or if it fails a safety inspection.
According to Health and Safety Executive Guidelines, you are only supposed to use a ladder for work at height “when an assessment of the risk for carrying out a task has shown that using equipment that offers a higher level of fall protection is not justified.”
This means that a ladder should only be used when the work you’re doing doesn’t need extra safety equipment like fall arrest or fall restraint systems. If the risk assessment says you won’t need those things, you can use a ladder. Otherwise, you should not use a ladder and should instead use something like a MEWP (Mobile Elevated Work Platform) or scaffolding tower.
The duration of the task must be a factor in safely using a ladder, though it should not be the sole or deciding factor. Generally speaking, if the task would require standing on a ladder or step ladder for longer than 30 minutes, you should use alternative equipment.
In the workplace, you should ideally only use a ladder if you can be safely supervised. This is to ensure any accidents can reported to the relevant authorities quickly.
READ MORE: Ladder Risk Assessments
Ladder Safety Inspection
If the work you’re doing is likely to need a ladder, you must make sure your ladder is safe to use, and that you are safe to use it in turn.
In a domestic environment, formal competency training isn’t required. However, in a work environment, a ladder must only be used by someone who has been formally trained in using a ladder.
We’ve put together a checklist on how to inspect a ladder, and if your ladder doesn’t meet its requirements, we recommend you do not use it.
There are also some essential ladder safety rules you should follow. Should your task prevent you from following these particular ladder safety rules, again, we recommend you do not use a ladder.
If you can’t ensure that the working environment is safe for a ladder, then you should not use a ladder until the environment has been made safe for one. This includes making sure pedestrians and vehicles can’t interfere with the ladder, that the weather conditions won’t cause the ladder to topple, and that the ground is firm and stable before use.
We hope this guide on when not to use a ladder has been helpful. If you have any questions on when the right time is to use a ladder, please do not hesitate to contact us and our team will be more than happy to help.
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