When working at height, safety is a key priority. An accident survey carried out by the UK government found that 7% of all workplace injuries recorded in 2017 were falls from height. While these were non-fatal injuries, in the past five years, almost half of all work-related fatal injuries were attributed to falls from height and vehicle accidents.
Accidents do happen, so while most cases likely had sufficient safety regulations in place, at least a small percentage can be traced back to poor safety equipment or a lack of training when working at height. Qualifications gained from IPAF and PASMA training go a long way in ensuring that employees correctly use equipment for reaching greater heights. Employers should also strictly enforce the following of regulations in the workplace.
Not all jobs are suitable for the use of Powered Access Platforms or Scaffolding. A general recommendation is that any job which takes over 30 minutes should seek powered or semi-permanent structures. Less than this and at a reasonable height, ladders and stepladders should be considered. Contrary to past opinion, ladders and stepladders are not banned under health and safety law and instead, users should closely follow guidelines to ensure safe use.
Check the Ladder
Before employees or individuals come to use any ladder, it should first be checked over to ensure it is safe. The same checks should also be carried out if the ladder undergoes stress, through a fall or drop for example, or when moving between locations with debris or dust on the floor.
- Feet – Check the feet are intact on the ladder and there is no missing parts or damage. Importantly, make sure the feet of the ladder do not have any wedged material or substance that could affect grip
- Stiles – The stiles of the ladder are the supports that run either side of the rungs. These should be in one piece and not damaged or bent. The stiles are one of the most important parts, so if damage or weakness is suspected – do not use the ladder!
- Rungs – The most used part of the ladder, the rungs should be securely fixed with no visible damage, bending or weakness
- Platform/Treads – Depending on the type of ladder you are using, there may be a flat platform or steps with treads. Like the feet, these should be clear of any material or substance that could affect the grip. There should be no visible damage or weakness and platforms should lock in securely
- Locking Mechanism – The locking mechanisms on the ladder are essential for safety and should be thoroughly checked for any interference in the material, weaknesses, damage or wear. Double check the locking mechanism is sturdy and fixed before climbing the ladder
Using the Ladder
When it comes to using the ladder, there are certain processes that should be followed to ensure it is safe to use.
The ladder should be high enough for the task without the need to step on the platform or the top three rungs. Your naval (belt) should always be within the stiles (supports).
Any materials or tools carried up the ladder should be light and not affect your ability to climb with both hands.
Three points of contact should be possible whenever the ladder is in use. If you need to use two hands to perform a task, safety gear should be in place.
Never try to move or extend the ladder while it is in use and never use leaning ladders against weak materials such as gutters. The ladder should be placed on a flat sturdy floor with an angle that follows the 1-in-4 rule – for every 4 units the ladder goes up, it should come out away from the structure for 1 unit. Stepladders follow the same rules and should be placed with all four feet flat on the ground to only carry out tasks that do not impose a side-load which could cause the stepladder to tip.
Both ladders should point towards the work being carried out, although stepladders can be used for side-orientated work if a risk assessment has been carried out. By informing workers of the safest way to work at height, the number of accidents can be reduced – creating safer workplaces across the UK for tradespeople and employees alike.
If you are looking for IPAF or PASMA training in the Newcastle and the North East of England, get in contact with North East Access Training today for more information on training your employees to safely work at height.