Updated Ladder Safety Guidance underlines importance of inspections

bigstock-The-worker-falling-down-from-t-426301232 (1)

Falls when working at height remain the most common kind of workplace fatality, accounting for around a quarter of all worker deaths and 8% of all non-fatal injuries every year, with many involving a fall off a ladder.The HSE have updated their guidance on using the right type of ladder and using it safely placing a greater emphasis on the safety checks and inspections.

The LA455 guidance recommends a visual check prior to use as well as a regular detailed visual inspection. Pre-use checks make sure that a ladder is safe to use and are for the immediate benefit of the ladder user. These checks do not need to be recorded. Any problems or issues should be reported to a manager. A detailed visual inspection is similar to pre-use checks, in that it is used to spot defects and can be done on site by a competent employee.

The Pre-use check - checking your ladder before you use it

To carry out your pre-use check, you should have access to user instructions from the manufacturer in case you need to refer to them. You should always carry out a ‘pre-use’ check to spot any obvious visual defects to make sure the ladder is safe to use.  A pre-use check should be carried out:

  • by the user;
  • at the beginning of the working day
  • after something has changed, eg a ladder has been dropped or moved from a dirty area to a clean area (check the state or condition of the feet).

The check should include:

  • the stiles – make sure they are not bent or damaged, as the ladder could buckle or collapse;
  • the feet – if they are missing, worn or damaged the ladder could slip. Also check the ladder feet when moving from soft/dirty ground (eg dug soil, loose sand/stone, a dirty workshop) to a smooth, solid surface (eg paving slabs), to make sure the actual feet and not the dirt (eg soil, chippings or embedded stones) are making contact with the ground;
  • the rungs – if they are bent, worn, missing or loose, the ladder could fail;
  • the locking mechanism – does the mechanism work properly? Are components or fixings bent, worn or damaged? If so, the ladder could collapse. Ensure any locking bars are fully engaged;
  • the stepladder platform – if it is split or buckled, the ladder could become unstable or collapse;
  • the steps or treads on stepladders – if they are contaminated, they could be slippery; if the fixings are loose on the steps, they could collapse. 

If you spot any of the above defects, do not use the ladder and notify your employer.

The Detailed Visual Inspection – monitoring the ongoing condition of the equipment

In line with PUWER, employers need to make sure that any ladder or stepladder is both suitable for the work task and in a safe condition before use. This means that any ladders in the workplace :

  • have no visible defects. They should have a pre-use check each working day 
  • have an up-to-date record of the detailed visual inspections carried out regularly by a competent person. These should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • are suitable for the intended use, ie are strong and robust enough for the job
  • have been maintained and stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Note: Ladders that are part of a scaffold system still have to be inspected every seven days as part of the scaffold inspection requirements
Anybody can appreciate the potential danger of a 10 ton forklift or 10 metre high scaffold. The familiarity of a simple piece of equipment like a ladder, can encourage complacency but there's no doubt that a faulty workplace ladder has the potential to maim or even kill. 
Previous article Incomplete Permit to Work Puts Contractor in the Dock
Next article Pallet Truck Inspection Requirements under LOLER and PUWER