Ladders are really only suitable for short duration work. When climbing, the worker should maintain three points of contact, (one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot), and also try to maintain two feet and one hand on the ladder whenever possible at the work positions (e.g. inspection work or painting).
They are also suitable for use as a means of access and egress and are commonly used for access into excavations and onto scaffolds.
Main hazards associated with use of ladders:
- Falls from height:
–– Falling off the ladder.
–– The ladder toppling sideways.
–– The ladder base slipping out from the wall.
- Objects falling from height.
- Contact with live overhead wires and cables.
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Safety precautions for use of ladders:
- Do not site or handle near live overheads.
- Site on a solid, flat base so that the feet do not sink into the ground. Weight should only be supported on the styles, never on the rungs.
- Angle of the ladder should ideally be 75° to the horizontal, or at a ratio of 1:4 distance away from the wall to height (1 out: 4 up).
- Top of the ladder must rest against a solid support.
- Ideally, the ladder should be secured at the top.
- If this is not possible, then guy ropes should be attached and secured to firm supports.
- If this is not possible, the ladder should be “footed” by someone standing on the bottom rung.
- Top of the ladder should extend far enough above the level of the working position, or the platform onto which it provides access, to provide a safe handhold. The stepping-off point should be safe and clear.
- Only one person should climb on the ladder at any one time.
- Nothing should be carried in the hands while climbing, so that both hands are free to grasp the styles.
- Wooden ladders should not be painted as this can hide defects.
Like ladders, step ladders are intended for short-duration, light work. Safety precautions for the use of stepladders include:
- Carry out a daily check of the stepladder before use.
- Always ensure that the ladder is fully open.
- Make sure that the locking devices are in place.
- Only use on firm, level ground that is not slippery.
- Do not work off the top two steps (top three steps for swing-back/ double-sided stepladders) unless there is a safe handhold on the steps.
- Avoid overreaching.
- Avoid side-on working.
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Trestles and Staging Platforms
Trestles are used with boards to provide a working platform. The HSE in the UK recommends that trestles should be:
- Big enough to allow safe passage and safe use of equipment and materials.
- Free from trip hazards or gaps through which persons or materials could fall.
- Fitted with Toe-boards and handrails. (If these are not fitted, the risk assessment would need to show that installing a guardrail had been considered and the reasons why it was not considered necessary.)
- Kept clean and tidy, e.g. no accumulation of mortar and debris on platforms.
- Not loaded in a way to risk collapse or deformation that could affect its safe use (particularly relevant in relation to blockwork loaded on trestles).
- Erected on firm, level ground to ensure stability during use.