When using a ladder to work at height is dangerous
When needing to carry out work at height, ladders are often the first thought. Yet, despite their supposed convenience and simplicity, they are the cause of numerous avoidable accidents, many of which are fatal. They are dangerous, and while not banned under Health and Safety law, they are rarely the safest option.
Ladders are only appropriate for low-risk short-duration jobs that do not warrant the use of safer equipment. If any of the following apply, put the ladder down!
You lack appropriate training
Before using a ladder to work at height, you need to be competent and understand how to use it safely. There are a range to choose from and certain guidelines to adhere to. And it can be extremely dangerous if you get it wrong.
A ladder can’t provide appropriate access
To be safe, leaning ladders must sit at a 75° angle and extend at least a metre beyond where you are working; If you can’t reach where you need with the ladder set-up correctly or you have to overstretch, then it isn’t safe. There are plenty of other options available, such as van and truck mounted platforms, scissor lifts, self-propelled booms and tracked boom lifts, all of which offer a safer alternative for those hard to reach jobs.
It is not in good condition
Ladders are only safe to use if they are clean and in good condition. That means that the feet are not worn or dirty, the rungs are intact and not bent, broken or missing, and the locking mechanisms work. Damaged or dirty ladders massively increase the risk of falling so should be avoided. Prior to using any ladder, conduct a pre-use check and repeat if something changes, for example, if the ladder is dropped or moved to a new area with a different surface.
You’re going to be working at height for long periods of time
While work duration is not the determining factor, Health and Safety guidelines suggest that if you are going to be working at height for more than 30 minutes, a ladder is not appropriate and you should consider other access options.
Conditions mean you can’t use a ladder safely
To use them safely, you need to position ladders on stable, flat ground where you can secure them against a solid wall. They must be out of the way of hazards such as doors and windows that could knock them over and out of the path of vehicles. They also need to be away from the public, as they can cause accidents or end up injured by one. If it’s not possible to position the ladder safely, you need to consider other methods.
Your work requires heavy equipment
Whenever you are using a ladder, you need to maintain three points of contact. It’s unsafe to carry heavy tools or materials in your hands while climbing. If your job requires you to, either wear a tool belt or find other means of transporting materials. You could also use an alternative access method that better suits your needs and environment.
Every working at height situation is unique and while this should give you an idea of when using a ladder is dangerous, if you are unsure about the best equipment to use for your job, you should seek advice from experts like us; it is better to be safe than sorry.