SAFE USE OF LADDERS
Every year an average of 14 people die and a further 1200
are seriously injured at work as a result of falling from a
leaning ladder or stepladder.
You do not need to fall from a great height to be badly
injured. More people get injuries such as broken arms or
legs falling less than 2 m from a ladder than falling from
above this height.
For example, a person was killed when they lost their
footing on the second rung of a ladder and fell
backwards, hitting their head on the floor.
The main reasons why people fall off ladders are:
Poor maintenance/poor condition
Ladders slipping at the top or bottom
Wrong type of ladder used
Ladder wobbles due to damaged feet or poor surface
Lack of secure grip
Ladder use – planning the task
Ensure that a risk assessment of ladder use is completed. This will ensure
that the right type and length of ladder is available for the tasks likely to
be carried out.
Ladders should only be used for light duty, short duration tasks. These
tasks should be identified by your supervisor or manager.
Ladders should not be used if the task is likely to be strenuous, require
physical effort or is likely to result in a sudden uncontrolled movement
e.g. removing a heavy object or freeing a seized bolt.
You should not use a ladder if you have a medical condition or injury that
could affect your safety.
You should not use a ladder if you are under the influence of alcohol or
Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear before using ladders.
Make sure that the ladder cannot be accidentally knocked over, i.e. be a
person or vehicle. If they have to be used in areas where it is possible to be
struck, ensure there is an extra person available to warn others or use
clear signage/barriers to warn people of the ladder.
Do not position a ladder within the area of an overhead power line (unless
the lines have been temporarily disconnected or insulated).
Remember – when using a ladder near live electrical equipment, use
ladders that will not conduct electricity.
Check that the ladder you are using conforms to
relevant standards, i.e.
BS2037:1994 aluminium ladders.
BS1129:1990 wooden ladders.
BS EN /131(or EN/131) applies to both.
It is recommended that you use one of the following:
Class 1 (industrial) Maximum static load:175kg (27.5
BS EN/131 (or EN/131) Maximum static load:150kg
The ladder should be marked with the class number,
maximum weight and instructions on how to use the
ladder safely – follow these at all times.
Only use ladders that are owned by the University –do
not use contractors or your own ladders in work.
It is recommended that departments mark their ladders
with a unique identifier.
Check for missing, damaged or worn anti-slip feet on
metal and fibreglass ladders (these are essential for
Check for items stuck in the feet such as swarf, stones
grease or dirt, preventing the feet from making direct
contact with the ground;
Check for mud, grease or oil either on the steps or the
stiles (the sides)
Check for cracks in the rungs or stiles of the
stepladder and missing, broken or weakened
Check for damaged or weakened rungs and
missing or damaged tie rods
Check metal stepladders for cracked or damaged
welds and missing or loose screws or rivets.
Avoid placing ladders on side or back slopes,
particularly if the surface is wet.
Ladders should not be used on a surface were the
side slope is greater that 16 degrees or the back
slope is greater than 6 degrees.
The rungs should always look horizontal.
Carry ladders is a safe manner. Long ladders
should be carried by two persons.
To erect a ladder, place its foot against a fixed
object such as a wall and raise the other end by
progressing hand over hand, from rung to rung
Make sure the ladder is erected the right way
up. If it is wooden ensure the tie rods are
underneath the rungs, if it is aluminium check
the rung profile is the right way round.
Do not place the top of a ladder against a fragile
surface such as plastic guttering or glazing as this
may give way and cause instability.
When erected the ladder must be at an angle of 75
degrees. Use the angle indicator marked on the
stiles of some ladders or the 1 in 4 rule (1 unit for
every 4 units up, as shown in Figure opposite).
If you cannot achieve this angle, because the ladder
is too short, too long or something is in the way, then don’t
The ladder to be used should be sufficiently long. Always try and make
sure the ladder extends at least 1 m (or three rungs) above where you will
If you are using a ladder for access, make sure it rises to at least 1 m (or
three rungs) above the landing place. But make sure it does not project so
far above that it could pivot around the landing point.
Wherever possible, tie a ladder to prevent it from
slipping. This can either be at the top, the bottom
or both, making sure both stiles are tied. Never tie
a ladder by its rungs.
If you can’t tie the ladder use an ‘effective ladder’
or one with an ‘effective ladder-stability device’.
This means a ladder or ladder-stability device that
the suppliers or manufacturers can confirm will be
stable enough to use unsecured in your worst case
If you cannot tie or use a stabilising device then you
can wedge the stiles against a wall or other similar
heavy object or, as a last resort, have a second person
foot the ladder.
Avoid overstretching - it is easy to loose balance.
If you have to carry out work along a wide area,
move the stepladder rather than try to stretch.
Your stomach should be kept within the stiles
and both feet should be flat on the step.
Never place you foot on another surface, e.g. a
window ledge to extend your reach.
When climbing up and down the ladder, take one step at a time.
Where possible ensure you have 3 points of contact with the ladder at all
times (i.e. two feet and one hand)
On nearing the bottom, watch where you place your feet.
Avoid carrying large or long items up and
down ladders. You should avoid carrying
items over 25kg and where possible keep items
to less than 10kg.
If you have to carry items up and down
ladders, ensure you maintain at least one hand
on the stepladder.
Tools and other light items should be carried
in a tool belt or bag or placed on the ladder
(see paint can opposite).
Only one person at a time should work off a
Do not throw things to the floor or colleagues
from a ladder.
Ensure stepladders are stored in an appropriate
place, away from areas where they can be
accidentally damaged or cause trips hazards.
Where possible, stepladders should be secured so
that they cannot be accidentally knocked over.
Carry out a risk assessment to determine what ladders you need
Only purchase and use stepladders that meet relevant British and
Plan the work before using a ladder.
Carry out pre-checks on the ladder before use.
Use in accordance with good practice.
Store ladders safely before and after use.