Step Ladder Safety Guide
Do you use a step ladder regularly and require step ladder safety advice?
Using a ladder is a necessity in most manual jobs. Whether you’re working in a stockroom or warehouse, or making improvements to a homeowners property, it is likely that a ladder will be required. It has to be said that the idea of using a ladder can be daunting, especially if the ladder is a tall one. There are clear risks and potential hazards that could occur if you are ill-prepared when using the ladder. However, on the positive side, using a ladder can be extremely safe - if you follow usage guidelines and ensure you are careful whilst using a ladder. To help you stay safe when using a ladder, we have put some helpful advice together which is based on advice and guidelines published by safety experts.
Before we begin with helpful advice on how to safely use step ladders, we would like to mention that we stock a range of combination ladders, extension ladders, step ladders and telescopic ladders. So whether you’re looking for ladders for extreme heights or require something to give you extra reach whilst in a stock room, we have something available for you.
Information in this article comes from Safe use of ladders and stepladders: A Brief Guide and other reputable sources. Where possible, we have expanded on the HSE advice to further help you when it comes to step ladder safety.
Inspect the Ladder Before Use
Before using a ladder it is recommended that you check all areas of the ladder before stepping on. This will prevent risks from damaged equipment, and will also give you the opportunity to fix any issues that your ladder may have. The main places to check are the stiles, feet, rungs, locking mechanism, platform, steps/treads.
If you’re wondering what the stiles on a ladder are then they are simply the two vertical ends that hold the ladder together. They are the part that the steps are connected to. These are an integral part for ensuring the ladder is fully operational without any risk of buckling or collapsing.
When checking your ladders stiles, you are looking out for any bent or split areas. If your ladders stiles are bent or split, we recommend that you do not step onto the ladders, as the damage to the stiles could cause the ladders to buckle or collapse.
The feet of the ladder are the parts that make contact with the floor. These parts are extremely important for keeping the ladder stable. When checking the feet you are looking for any evidence of damage. This includes missing parts, evidence of wearing or obvious damage such as dents.
It is also important that you check the feet when you’re moving across terrain types. If you are first using the ladder on a gravel surface, and then opt to move to a smooth surface, you should wipe the feet to ensure any risk of slipping is reduced or eliminated. Ensure that the feet are dry before climbing.
The rungs on a ladder are the part where you rest your feett when climbing from one step to the next. Keeping these slip-free and safe will prevent risks and will also make you feel more secure when using the ladder.
As the rungs are mainly required for temporary stepping movements, it is important that you keep them grit-free and where possible keep them dry. It is also important that you regularly check the robustness of the rung to ensure that there is no issue with rungs attachment to the stiles.
The locking mechanism is important as it keeps the ladder in place to stop it from collapsing. If your locking mechanisms are bent or you can see or feel any damage, they may need replacing to ensure the ladder remains safe whilst using.
The platform, sometimes referred to as the top cap, is the top area of the ladder. Whilst many may refer to this as the top step, it is not, in fact, a step. Using it as a step can be very dangerous, as this does not have the integral support that each step gains from the stiles. Before using a ladder, check the platform and ensure there are no obvious issues. If the platform is split or buckled, avoid using the ladder as this level of damage could result in the ladder becoming unstable and collapsing.
Steps / Treads
One of the main risks that is present when using a ladder is slipping from the steps. If you notice that any steps are contaminated or are effected by liquid/anything that could cause a slip, avoid using the ladder until the risk has been efficiently dealt with. It is always worth checking that the fixings are tight before stepping onto a ladder. If the fixings are loose, there is a risk that the ladder could collapse. Be sure to check this before stepping on - especially if you have travelled a long distance with your ladders attached to a van roof etc.
Only Use Ladder for 30 minutes Maximum
For your own physical health, it is recommended that you only use a step ladder for around 30 minutes at a time. Anything longer than that and you should really be using an alternative type of equipment such as a platform. If you overuse a ladder, you can cause real damage to your knees, back and shoulders. Whilst body usage is expected with manual work, you need to consider the long term effects decisions can have on your body. Understandably, painters and decorators, for example, will need to use ladders for extended periods, but it is advisable to really think about the amount of time that is required. Step ladder safety is something that should never be overlooked. Especially when it comes to your physical health.
Never Over Reach
Similar to avoiding the use of a ladder for more than 30 minutes, overreaching can also have a negative effect on your body. By overreaching, you are stretching your body into positions that are uncomfortable and can have a real impact on your back and shoulders. But more importantly, overreaching can result in you losing your balance, or too much weight being distributed on one side. This could result in a fatal fall, or worse, the ladder collapsing whilst you’re still on it. It is always best to climb down the ladder, move the ladder closer to where you’re working and then climb back up. This will prevent unnecessary accidents happening whilst you’re working.
Do Not Position The Ladder On Icy Surfaces
Ice is slippery and can be dangerous to simply stand on. So if you think about the dangers of using ladders on ice, it’s quite clear why it is best not to position a ladder on top of icy surfaces. Of course, there can be times when this is unavoidable, so if you do need to position a ladder on top of an icy surface, be sure to have someone holding the ladder to keep it secure. They can also spot you as you climb, so if something does accidentally happen, they are there to help.
Only Use Ladders On Even Or Level Surfaces
It is always best to use a ladder on even surfaces. This helps to ensure the ladder feet are safely making contact with the ground, guaranteeing a stable climb. Climbing a ladder on an uneven surface can result in the ladder collapsing or slipping whilst you climb. Sometimes it is unavoidable and you will need to climb a ladder on an uneven surface. In this case, try to make the ladder as secure as you can and ensure someone is there to add extra support for the ladder whilst you climb.
Do No Exceed Maximum Weight Guidelines
Most ladders have a maximum weight restriction. These weight restrictions/guidelines have been set based on scientific experiments and should be followed. By exceeding the weight restrictions/guidelines you could risk making the ladder collapse which could result in a serious injury.
Keep Both Feet On Ladder
It is always best practise to keep both feet on the ladder when climbing / using. By this, it means that you should not use your foot to lean against walls etc to gain extra leverage. This can unbalance the ladder and course it to collapse. The dangers of taking both feet off of the ladder are closely related to overstretching, therefore it is best to use the same solutions to stop yourself taking both feet off the ladder.
Do Not Lean Folding Ladders Against Walls When In Use
Many people mistakenly lean folding ladders against walls and climb up them to gain extra height. This is extremely dangerous and should not be done. The ladder could easily slide out from under you. If the height you need to climb to is higher than your ladder can reach, you need a different ladder or another tool for reaching heights.
Train ladder users about the different types of ladders
To ensure safety is passed on among others, it is important to provide training to ensure that everyone has had the opportunity to learn about step ladder safety. Whilst a lot of this step ladder safety guide could be considered general knowledge, it is always best to make others aware to help prevent accidents. It is especially important to provide training if the ladder is a new piece of equipment that has never been used in the workplace.
As well as following step ladder safety guidelines, it is also necessary to ensure your ladder is safe. If your step ladder is old, damaged or generally needs replacing, do so. An unsafe ladder with aging components can be very dangerous.
IDH Direct sells a range of high quality step ladders that are safe to use in working environments. Whether you’re looking for step ladders, extensions ladders or telescopic ladders, we can help.
For further safety advice and more information about workplace equipment, view more articles on our blog.