Most people will use a ladder without a second thought. However, falls from ladders are a common cause of injuries to people carrying out DIY, so it is important to know how to use this type of equipment safely. Ladders should conform to the European safety standard BS EN131.
GENERAL SAFETY TIPS
- Ensure that the ladder you select is the right height to avoid having to over reach.
- Always inspect the ladder prior to use, for any damage or defects that may have occurred since it was last used. Check the stiles (the vertical sides of the ladders); the rungs or treads and the non-slip feet on the bottom of the stiles.
- Do not use ladders under electric or telephone cables.
- If you must use ladders in front of a doorway, position a hazard sign on the door warning the public. Additionally, have someone at the foot of the ladder to prevent anyone opening the door.
- Ladders should always be positioned on firm, level ground. If repairs need to be made immediately and the ground is soft, a strong board can be used to position the feet of the ladder on to stop them sinking.
- When adjusting the position of a ladder, do not be tempted to make the adjustments while still standing on the ladder. Always climb down and carry out adjustments at ground level.
- Do not carry any object that will cause you to lose balance and fall whilst using the ladder.
- Always wear suitable footwear when using a ladder (or carrying out any DIY job).
- When transporting ladders ensure they are firmly secured to the vehicle.
- Store ladders away in a manner that prevents damage to the ladder, especially if stowed for long periods of time.
- If using two ladders to support scaffold planks e.g. when gaining access to a stairwell, the scaffold planks should be roped together and then roped securely to the stiles at both ends.
- Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.
- Do not place ladders on unstable bases to obtain additional height.
In addition to the general safety tips, when using a stepladder you should also be aware of the following:
- Never use the top of a stepladder (the cap) or the rung below it for standing or stepping on.
- Do not stand on the rear bracing of a stepladder.
- Never use a stepladder that is not fully opened, always make sure it is fully open and locked before use.
- Do not leave tools on the steps of the ladder.
- Make sure the steps are wiped clean of any spills such as oil and water.
EXTENSION AND SINGLE LADDERS
When using an extension ladder the following safety precautions should also be followed.
- The ladder should be positioned against the wall at a 1:4 lean ratio, which means 1 metre out from the wall and 4 metres (or feet if you prefer) up the wall.
- If possible tie the ladder at or near the top of the building for added stability. When tying and untying the ladder to the top of the building, or if the ladder cannot be tied, someone on the ground should hold the ladder stable by gripping the stiles and planting a foot firmly on the bottom rung.
- The top of the stiles must both rest against the wall.
- Never stand on the top three rungs of these ladders.
- The two sections of an extension ladder must always overlap by at least two rungs.
- When accessing roofs, landings, or open floor levels, the ladder should reach a distance of three feet above the landing area.
- Hands should be kept free while climbing the ladder. Carry objects in backpacks or on tool belts etc.
- Ladders are manufactured for different markets. A ladder made for industry will be sturdier and can be used by people carrying heavier weights in comparison to ladders made for the domestic or DIY market. Check the rating of the ladder and verify that you will not exceed its capacity (remember to include body weight and tools).