Is your Leaning Ladder Safe? Part one

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When using a ladder it is essential that the piece of equipment you use is safe and adequate for use. Below are some points as to why

• More than 90,000 people receive medical treatment from ladder related injuries a year.
• Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually
• These deaths account for 15% of all occupational deaths
• The majority of these accidents could of been prevented if the correct ladder was used or the user had adequate training

Ladder accidents are extremely common even though they are entirely preventable. Ladder accidents can come from a wide variety of issues, but the following four causes account for the vast majority.

Selecting the Wrong Type of Ladder

Choosing the right ladder can make all the difference when it comes to safety. One thing to consider when selecting a ladder is the ladder's weight capacity. Each ladder is designed to support a maximum weight limit and if the climber exceeds that limit the ladder could break. Remember to take into consideration the weight of the items you may be carrying as this will all count.


Duty Rating

The calculated weight of the user, their tools and materials, plus the additional weight created by climbing up and down the equipment.

Work Load Capacity

The maximum static vertical load to be applied to a piece of equipment. Only accurately measured under test conditions.

Steps and Ladders

BS2037 Class 1 - maximum static vertical load 175kg (27.5 stone)
EN131 - maximum static vertical load 150kg (23.5 stone)
EN131-4 - maximum static vertical load 150kg (23.5 stone) for hinged ladders
EN14183 - maximum static vertical load 150kg (23.5 stone)

Loft Ladders

EN14975 - maximum static vertical load 150kg (23.5 stone)

Aluminium Scaffold Towers

BS EN1004:2004 - European standard relating to mobile scaffold towers with a height from 2.5m to 12m indoors and 2.5m to 8m outdoors

Another consideration when selecting the appropriate ladder for a job is the necessary height of the ladder. Many injuries occur due to ladders being too short for a specific task, instead of selecting a new ladder for the job, workers will place the ladder on something to extend its reach or will stand on the top rung to gain the necessary height. Both scenarios are extremely dangerous and can result in serious injury.

Condition of the ladder

Before you use a ladder it is import to inspect the below parts

A common contributing factor to ladder accident is the use of old, worn or damaged ladders. Like everything else, ladders have a shelf life. After a prolonged number of years the stress of being climbed up and on causes ladders to break down. Damaged ladders are extremely dangerous as they can easily break while being used and cause serious injuries.

How to inspect your ladder-

End caps/ Feet 

A close inspection of the end caps you should ensure

• All are present
• All fixings are secure with no signs of corrosion and the fixing point in the stiles are in good condition
• For wear and damage - Is there enough tread
• For any contamination - for example if mud, grease or paint is present, please clean as necessary. Also check that the contamination is not hiding any other defects


These are the side of the ladders which the runs and other items are fitted into. These form part of the main structure of the ladder

A close inspection of the stiles should ensure:

• The stiles are straight. Especially where that are unsupported. To check this look along the ladder from one of the ends. Check for bowing, twisting or changes in directions
• There are no signs of corrosion, rot, mould or fungus. This can be caused by unsuitable storage
• There are no splinters, holes, tears, splits or impact damage
• For any contamination - if mud, grease or paint is present, please clean as necessary. Also check that the contamination is not hiding any other defects


It is important that there are no missing, damaged, rotten, corroded or loose rungs. The rungs are responsible for support the users weight and the weight of any tools or materials that are being carried. They must not be covered in any mud or grease ect that may cause the user to slip.

A close inspection of the tread should ensure:

• That none are missing
• They are straight with no rot or corrosion
• All the treads are tight with no movement. This can be checked by opening the ladder and laying it on its side and tapping each rung with a light stiff object. Loose rungs will rattle or thud. A tight rung will make a pronounced ring. If a rung seems loose try to twist the rung with both hands. If the rung moves the ladder has become unusable.
• There is no sign of impact damage. It is important to check the rung hooks on the top edges of the runs close the the rung/stile joint
• For any contamination


These will be the screws, bolts and rivets of the ladder

A close inspection of the fixings should ensure

• No fixings are missing
• They are in good condition - no corrosion or wear
• They are tightly fixed to the ladder
• There is no sign of pulling or elongation

If any part of a ladder looks to be damaged or dangerous in any way please do not use.

Incorrect Use of Ladders

Human error is by far the leading cause of ladder accidents. Never use a ladder in any other way than what the manufacturer intended it to be used for. Also, do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way.

While using a ladder always maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder to ensure stability. Also, never attempt to reach for something while on the ladder, it is much safer to get off the ladder, move it and then climb back up.

Incorrect Placement of Ladders

Make sure that when positioning a ladder the ground you place it on is level and firm. Ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.

A good practise to ensure a ladder is secure is to always have a helper support the base while a ladder is being used. If the ladder can not be held by someone else make sure it has an appropriate food to prevent it from slipping. 

Disclaimer - The above information is only guide. A full risk assessment should be carried out according to the HSE guidelines prior to use of a ladder.

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