What is the law around ladder pre-use safety inspections?
Anybody can appreciate the potential danger of a 10 ton forklift or 10 metre high scaffold but the familiarity of a simple piece of equipment like a ladder, can encourage complacency when it comes to safety.
However, with an estimated two million ladders in daily use across the UK, it is perhaps not surprising that ladders are involved in around 35% of falls from height accidents investigated by the HSE. Falling from even a low height, can result in serious injuries or death. The main causes when it comes to incidents which involve falling from ladders are:
the ladder is in poor condition
the ladder slips due to the ladder user over-reaching
the ladder is not correctly secured
In addition to the umbrella Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, ladders fall under Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) and supporting HSE guidance - INDG455 Safe use of ladders and stepladders.
As part of the PUWER, employers, managers, duty holders and supervisors have the responsibility to provide employees with correct and, more importantly, safe equipment. Not only that, the equipment should be properly maintained and regularly inspected to prevent any serious injury or even death.WAHR also spells out the need to check and maintain ladders. WAHR are not requiring anything new, but they are clearly re-stating the general requirements of PUWER.
Detailed visual checks v’s pre-use inspections
The HSE confirms the requirement for two levels of ladder safety checks:
Pre-use checks should be carried out at the beginning of the working day and 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).
Detailed visual inspections should be carried out regularly by a competent person. These inspections will be outlined in the manufacturer’s instruction manual
Before starting a task, you should always carry out a ‘pre-use’ check to spot any obvious visual defects to make sure the ladder is safe to use. If the ladder is dirty, clean it as damage can be hidden beneath all the dirt, and the dirt itself can cause the ladder to slip or you to slip from the ladder.
A checklist and status tag system can record daily checks are being completed and clearly identify faulty ladders that shouldn’t be used. A pre-use check should include the following elements, if any of these defects are present the ladder must not be used and the employer notified.
Stiles must be in good condition as bent or split stiles could lead to collapse
Make sure feet are not worn, damaged, dirty or missing, or else the ladder could slip.
Confirm the rungs are not bent, missing or loose to keep your ladder stable
Make sure the locking bars work and are not bent, worn or damaged or the ladder could collapse
Make sure treads are not contaminated or slippery
Make sure platforms on stepladders aren’t split or buckled as it may lead to instability or collapse
Check steps on stepladders and make sure fixings aren’t loose or else the ladder may collapse
In addition to performing a quick check before every
use, a detailed visual inspection of your ladder should be carried out every few months. It can be done in-house or externally by a competent person. It's important to keep a record of these inspections and of any defects identified.
Ladders and stepladders are not discouraged under health and safety law. In fact they can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks. However, you must use the right type of ladder and know how to use it safely.