Ladder Law FAQ

Some FAQ on ladder use safety and the law?

'Get a Grip' is the new National Ladder Safety Campaign.

The aim of the campaign is simple: To promote the safe use of ladders and stepladders at work and at home and so help prevent avoidable accidents. The campaign message is :

'If it's right to use a ladder, use the right ladder and get trained to use it safely.'

Ladders are a safe, practical and versatile solution for low risk and short duration work at height, but there are some rules and regulations about their use. So, we will look at some often asked questions about ladder safety. What is the UK law on ladders, how do the work at height regulations apply to ladders, stepladders, step stools and mobile work platforms? Are there any ladder standards?

What is the law on using ladders?

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 applies to all operations carried out at height, regardless of:

  • The work equipment being used; 

  • The duration of the work; 

  • The height at which the work is performed. 

Work at height is defined as:

Work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.

So, if you are working off a ladder, any ladder irrespective of what height, indoors or outdoors the 'Work at Height Regulations 2005' apply. This then is the main law that applies to using ladders, but there are others.

At the centre of the regulations is regulation 6 which puts an expectation on an employer to apply a three-stage hierarchy to all work which is to be carried out at height.

  1. AVOID Working at Height. Do as much work as possible from the ground

  2. PREVENT a fall from occurring. 

  3. MINIMISE the distance and/or consequence of a fall.

The HSE have produced a very useful Video on avoiding working at height.

Any ladder is work equipment and so is covered by Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). The legislation and guidance places responsibilities on suppliers and users to ensure work machinery is provided and used safely.

Anyone supplying a ladder for work must ensure that it meets the requirements of PUWER i.e. it must be:

  • Suitable for use, and for the purpose and conditions in which it is to be used;

  • Maintained in a safe condition for use so that people’s health and safety is not at risk; and

  • Inspected, in certain circumstances, to ensure that it is and continues to be safe for use. Any inspection should be carried out by a competent person (this could be an employee if they have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task) and a record kept until the next inspection.

A ladder inspection frequency will vary depending on use. Good practice is to check every time before use. IF THERE IS ANY DOUBT ABOUT IT’S CONDITION DO NOT USE. A competent person must check every time any suspected damage to the ladder. A suggested planned inspection frequency by a competent person:

  • Used daily- every month

  • Used monthly- every 3 months

  • Used infrequently- every 12 months

Records of written inspections should be retained, if there is any evidence of damage to the ladder it must not be used. Then obtain advice from the ladder supplier or manufacturer.

A ladder user has responsibilities covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. These require the ladder user to:

  • Take reasonable care for themselves and others who may be affected (stop objects falling from height onto anybody below);

  • Co-operate with the employer;

  • Not to misuse or interfere with safety provisions;

  • Use equipment properly in accordance with instructions and training;

  • Inform employers of dangerous situations and shortcomings in protection arrangements. 

Where an employees provides his own ladder, the employer still has a responsibility to ensure that the ladder is suitable and safe to use.

Before commencing any work using a ladder you MUST do a risk assessment to ensure your safety and that of others.

Is working off a ladder banned under UK Health and Safety Law?

Under regulation 6 of the working at height regulations, a ladder should NEVER be your first choice of work equipment. You are supposed to avoid working at height whenever possible.

However, there are many situations where a ladder is the most suitable equipment for the job. Ladders can often be the most appropriate equipment for low-risk and short-duration tasks (no longer than 30 minutes).

So, ladders are not banned under UK health and safety law or any other UK or EU regulations.

Do any regulations apply to ladders?

'Work at Height Regulations 2005' apply to using ladders, as discussed already. Furthermore, there is a European Standard that applies to the manufacture of all ladders BS EN 131.

Is holding a ladder required under UK Health and Safety Law?

This question is often asked another way, is footing a ladder a legal requirement?

Working at Height regulations schedule 6 requires:

'A portable ladder shall be prevented from slipping during use by

(a)securing the stiles at or near their upper or lower ends

(b)an effective anti-slip or other effective stability device

(c)any other arrangement of equivalent effectiveness.'

Footing a ladder or holding a ladder by someone other than the person working at height falls into category (c). However it is not law that it has to be held or footed.

It is law that a method MUST be used to prevent the ladder slipping during use. This might be ladder rail foot spikes into soft ground, or other anti slip devices.

A working at height safety awareness course is the best way to learn and prove to others that you understand the requirements of the regulations and the law. The Commodious online working at height course is probably the best value and convenient way to do this.