Safe use of ladders and stepladders
This guidance is for employers on the simple, sensible precautions they should take to keep people safe when using ladders and stepladders in the workplace. This will also be useful for employees and their representatives.
Following this guidance is normally enough to comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR). You are free to take other action, except where the guidance says you must do something specific.
Ladders and stepladders are not banned under health and safety laws.
In fact, they can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks, although they may not automatically be your first choice. Make sure you use the right type of ladder and you know how to use it safely.
The law calls for a sensible, proportionate approach to managing risk, and further guidance on what you should do before deciding if a ladder is the right type of equipment for a particular task is provided in Working at height: A brief guide.
References to ladders in this leaflet, unless otherwise indicated, refer to leaning
ladders (sometimes known as extension ladders) and stepladders and the guidance
applies similarly to both. More specific requirements that only apply to a leaning
ladder or a stepladder are covered in detail under the relevant headings.
When is a ladder the most suitable equipment?
The law says that ladders can be used for work at height when a risk assessment has shown that using equipment offering a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered.
Short duration is not the deciding factor in establishing whether use of a ladder is acceptable or not – you should have first considered the risk. As a guide, if your task would require staying up a leaning ladder or stepladder for more than 30 minutes at a time, it is recommended that you consider alternative equipment.
You should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely, eg where the ladder will be level and stable, and where it is reasonably practicable to do so, the ladder can be secured.
Who can use a ladder at work? To use a ladder you need to be competent, ie have had instruction and understand how to use the equipment safely.
Appropriate training can help. If you are being trained, you should work under the supervision of somebody who can perform the task competently. Training can often take place on the job.
Check your ladder before you use it
Before starting a task, you should always carry out a 'pre-use'check to spot any obvious visual defects to make sure the ladder is safe to use.
Use your ladder safely
Once you have done your ‘pre-use’ check, there are simple precautions that can minimize the risk of a fall