Safety Ladder Training: Are Your Ladders Safe for Work?

Graphic of Delivery of Safety Ladder Training during a slide showing unsafe ladders

Are you and your employees using ladders safely in the workplace? Many routine tasks require a ladder, from checking a smoke detector to moving retail stock. Ladder safety is critical to workplace safety, and neglecting it can lead to serious accidents and injuries. This blog will explore the importance of the safe use of a ladder and provide valuable insights on ensuring your ladders are safe and suitable for work. Keep reading to learn more about ladder safety, some simple precautions, and how to make informed choices regarding ladder use and purchase.

Understanding Safe Ladder Use

Safe use of ladders is of paramount importance in any workplace setting. Whether you work in construction, retail, service work or any other industry, ladders are a standard tool used to access high areas and perform various tasks. However, failing to comply with safety laws can result in falls, injuries, and even fatalities.

To minimise the risk of a fall during work activities, it is essential to use leaning ladders and stepladders as the first choice for light work that will take a short duration of use and is low risk only. There may be a more suitable type of access equipment for larger jobs or jobs that will take longer, such as static work platforms, mobile elevating work platforms, scissor lifts, and tower scaffolds. For more information about Working at Height, see our Knowledge Bank.

According to ladder safety guidelines provided by The Ladder Association, ladders should be used by a competent person if a particular task requires it. It advocates safe practices like the ideal ladder angle, using a tool belt, and carrying only light materials. Read its brief guide on using a ladder here.

The Ladder Association is a non-profit industry association dedicated to encouraging the safe use of portable ladders. The association recently released a "Step Up to Safe Ladders" campaign to address the sale of unsafe ladders.

The Ladder Association: Tackling Unsafe Ladder Sales

The Problem: The Ladder Association found that substandard imported ladders are readily available in the UK market, putting people at risk. The prevalence of unsafe and potentially dangerous ladders, particularly online, is a natural and serious concern.

Campaign Overview: The "Step Up to Safe Ladders" campaign aims to halt the sale of these unsafe ladders. The primary goal is to ensure the safety of individuals when using ladders in various settings.

Telescopic Ladder Surveillance Studies: In May 2022, a study revealed that over 80% of tested telescopic ladders failed safety requirements. A follow-up study in April 2023, testing the same products purchased from major online retailers, confirmed that the issue persists.

Multi-Hinge-Joint Ladder Study: The campaign's latest project in September 2023 focused on multi-hinge-joint ladders. Shockingly, 70% of the tested ladders failed safety tests, underscoring the widespread problem.

Consumer Guidance: Consumers are to exercise caution when buying ladders. Keep reading for some practical guidance for online and in-store purchases.

Ladder Safety Rules: EN131 Standards

Make sure your ladders meet the current EN131 standards. Look for the EN131 label on your ladders to ensure they are safe. Old standards like BS 2037 and BS 1129 are outdated, so if you have old ladders, use them only if they pass safety checks. Avoid ladders with a CE marking, as ladders cannot be CE marked.

Examples of EN131 standard markings on a selection of ladders and stepladders

Identifying Safe and Genuine Ladders

Now, let's talk about identifying safe and genuine ladders. A safe ladder should be sturdy, durable, and have secure locking mechanisms. It should be the right size for the task and capable of supporting the user's weight. It should accommodate any permanent and existing workplace features. Regular maintenance and training are essential for ladder safety.

Is Your Ladder Authentic and Safe?

Check your ladder for a manufacturer's label and serial number. Make sure the weight rating matches your needs. Inspect the ladder for visible damage or wear. Check each of the ladder rungs and stepladder feet. When in doubt, consult a professional or consider replacing the ladder.

Buying New Ladders: A Guide

Consider their purpose, weight limit, height, and reach when buying new ladders. Look for safety features like non-slip feet and secure locking mechanisms. Consider purchasing an effective stability device to use in conjunction with the ladders. Check for certifications and compliance with safety standards. Use this checklist to ensure a safe ladder purchase:

  1. Consider the ladder's height and weight capacity.
  2. Look out for safety certifications, labels, and user instructions.
  3. Check the materials and construction for solid materials.
  4. Evaluate safety features like non-slip steps and stepladder locks.
  5. Compare prices, warranties, and customer reviews.

Avoid Unsafe Ladders Buying Guide

Navigating the Ladder Market

The ladder market can be overwhelming, but you can make the right choice by being informed. Be aware of false claims and mislabelling. Verify product specifications, check customer reviews, and prioritise safety and authenticity when purchasing.

Spotting False Product Descriptions

When buying ladders online, watch out for misleading claims. Verify product specifications to ensure accuracy and safety. Customer reviews can provide insights into the reliability of product descriptions and identify red flags that may indicate false product descriptions.

Ensuring Compliance and Safety Checks

  • Familiarise yourself with safety standards and regulations.
  • Conduct regular safety checks to ensure compliance and your ladders remain in a safe condition.
  • Understand ladder safety certifications and labels. Consult reliable resources to decode and understand certifications.

Check Your Ladder Before Use

  • Before using a ladder, conduct a thorough pre-use inspection. Check for structural integrity, rung condition, and stability. 
  • Consider your intended working position, any space restraints and the ladder's points of contact when in use. Think about where the ladder will rest for your intended work position. Will it rest on a strong upper surface? Weak upper surfaces like windows and plastic gutters should be avoided.

Another unsafe practice to avoid is side loading. This occurs when the weight is applied to the side of the ladder, which can cause instability and lead to accidents. In some situations, working side on may be necessary due to space constraints, like in narrow aisles, but it should be avoided whenever possible. When side loading is unavoidable, check the ladder feet for wear or damage and the ladder stiles for dents or twists.

Address any defects through timely maintenance. Implement a regular ladder safety checklist and maintenance schedule to ensure ongoing safety.

Report Unsafe Ladders and Noncompliant Sellers

Establish a reporting system for unsafe ladders and noncompliant sellers. Prioritise transparency and accountability. Empower employees to report ladder safety concerns. Proactively address unsafe ladders and noncompliant practices to ensure workplace safety. Read our guide here for more information about reporting accidents with the Health and Safety Executive.

Conclusion: Safe Use of Ladders and Step Ladders

In conclusion, it is crucial to prioritise ladder safety and understand the appropriate type to use to maintain a secure work environment. By checking that ladders meet EN131 standards and making informed choices when purchasing new ladders, you can ensure that you are using the right type of ladder for the task at hand. Additionally, always remember to assess the risks associated with using a ladder and check its safety before each use. By prioritising safety and using the correct type of ladder, you contribute to a culture of workplace well-being. Stay safe and make informed choices when it comes to ladder use.

Bethany Wesson

Bethany Wesson

Bethany is a freelance content writer and has produced articles for the Commodious Knowledge Bank since 2023. She has written about various health and safety topics, from asbestos to mindful business practices.

  • Working at Height
  • Ladders
  • Hazards
  • Heath and Safety