Ladders can be a practical and sensible option for low-risk, short duration tasks the employee undertakes as part of their role. However you must make sure the correct type of ladder is used and sufficient training has been undertaken on its use. New British and European standards have now been introduced to help make the selection of ladders easier.
There has, until now, been 3 types of ladder classification:
- Class 1 (Industrial)
- Class EN 131 (Commercial)
- Class 3 (Domestic)
Class 1 Ladders are the highest rated ladders in terms of strength and quality. These ladders are suitable for use in heavy-duty industrial applications and environments.
Class EN 131 Ladders are most suitable for commercial light trade work or heavy-duty DIY use.
Class 3 Ladders are only suited to occasional light domestic tasks and are not suitable for use within any commercial or trade environment.
The new ladder standards have now been published. Going forward the new classifications are:
- EN131 Professional
- EN131 Non-Professional Ladders
Avensure and the HSE recommend that for all work-related activities EN131 Professional ladders are purchased.
Do I need to scrap existing ladders?
If your existing ladders are in good condition and inspected regularly then you can continue to use them – there is no need to scrap existing ladders and stepladders that are in good condition and appropriate for use.
You may still find the older classifications used on the market with existing stock. This is nothing to be concerned about – just follow the guidance from the HSE and select the product appropriate for your business.
When is a ladder the best option to use?
The Working at Height Regulations 2005 state that Ladders/Step Ladders can be used for ‘working at height’ tasks when a Risk Assessment has deemed other equipment isn’t suitable for the task (because of its short duration and low risk), or there are features within the workplace that can’t be altered.
Short duration is not the only deciding factor when it comes to the use of ladders. Risks should have been assessed prior to the task being started. Things to consider are:
- Falls from height
- Loss of balance if floors/area are in poor condition
- Injury/fatality from use of faulty equipment
- Uneven surfaces
You should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely e.g. level/stable ground or where it is reasonably practicable to do so – so the ladder is always secure.
Who can use a ladder at work?
A ladder/step ladder is only to be used by a competent person i.e. someone that has received the proper training, had instruction and understands how to use the equipment safely.
Training is the key. If you are being trained, the person supervising this needs to be able to complete the task fully and competently. Training can often take place on the job – it doesn’t have to be out sourced ‘classroom’ training.
A ladder must also be pre-checked before a task is carried out:
- By the user
- At the beginning of the working day
- After something has changed with the ladder i.e. ladder being dropped or moved.