How to Inspect Fixed Ladders: The 10 Commandments

How to Inspect Fixed Ladders: The 10 Commandments

Fixed ladders need to be inspected routinely for safety purposes, and especially after carrying out an installation or reinstallation, or modifications and repairs. Any modification or repair where a fixed ladder is positioned should also be followed by a thorough inspection.

Regular inspection of fixed ladders is vital for workplace and employee safety. Whether you employ contractors or permanent staff, you are responsible for their safety in the workplace.

In this article, we highlight the ten commandments of fixed ladder safety, including the items you should never neglect. Note that this is an overview of how to inspect fixed ladders and does not comprehensively cover the entire process.

fall arrest equipment inspection

fall arrest equipment inspection

Why Inspect Fixed Ladders?

According to the DIO safety alert (Inspection and Maintenance of Fixed Access Systems), the appropriate inspection and maintenance of fixed access systems is required to ensure compliance with:

  • Health & Safety at Work Act, etc.1974  
  • Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
  • Work at Height Regulations 2005.”

According to a report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 144 fatal accidents at the workplace were recorded between 2017 and 2018. The majority of these — 35 fatalities — were as a result of a fall from height, almost three times as much as accidents from contact with moving machinery. With 40% of the 150 falls from height investigated by the HSE over the last three years comprising falls from ladders, it’s not difficult to see why ladder safety should be a priority.

How to Inspect Fixed Ladders

When considering how to inspect fixed ladders, there are ten key things inspectors will keep in mind. These ten commandments of inspecting ladders are:

1. Never miss a routine inspection or postpone one that is scheduled

Routine inspections are vital for workplace safety and postponing a scheduled inspection can be disastrous. If a fall was to occur because planned checks weren’t carried out, not only could it cause significant injury to an employee, but you could also face legal action, which could lead to hefty fines, potential jail time, and irreparable damage to your business’s reputation.

2. Check if installed fixed ladders adhere to measurements

Fixed ladders must adhere to established measurements. Not doing so risks compliance with the Health & Safety at Work act and related regulations. As a rule:

  • Handrails must extend 1,100mm or more above the landing and should open out to approximately 600-700 mm above the landing
  • Hoops should be no more than 1,500mm apart
  • Rungs should be able to withstand 1.5kN and must have a diameter of 20-35mm. 

3. Assess if conventional staircases would be more practical than fixed ladders

At certain access points, consider whether conventional staircases would be more practical and pose less of a safety hazard than fixed ladders.

Areas with a lot of traffic and footfall or that require ongoing use by multiple employees may benefit from the installation of a conventional staircase.

It’s important to conduct regular risk assessments to accurately assess the level of risk to employees using fixed ladders and whether suitable alternatives may be more appropriate.

It’s also important to note that the HSE’s guidance on safe ladder use is that they should only be used for low-risk, short duration work and where a risk assessment demonstrates that other more suitable work equipment cannot be used due to the layout of the work area.

4. Confirm that the fixed ladder is of sound construction and that it is properly maintained and fixed securely

As a given, when inspecting any fixed ladder, you must ensure that it is sound and able to withstand weight and use. Not installing a ladder securely can result in preventable accidents and, as a result, legal consequences, so always have your fixed ladders assessed by a professional.

5. Check if the assembly is rigid and stable enough to ensure the safety of the workers

It’s a recurring theme, but workplace and employee safety are vital. Your ladders should be stable under normal, everyday working conditions.

6. Check if stiles extend to the height of guarding

Ladder stiles, which support the rungs, should always extend to the height of guarding to ensure that workers have a steady grip when working at height. It goes without saying that the ladder should also be fixed securely by the stiles and that workers should not slide down the stiles when descending the ladder.

7. Ensure fall protection is in place, where necessary

When there is a risk of a fall from height of more than two meters, you should assess whether appropriate fall protection systems are in place. Fall arrest ladder systems are available, which allow the worker to move along the entire height of the ladder without having to continually disconnect and reconnect safety equipment. Should a fall occur, the ladder protection system will lock into position immediately.

8. Ensure the top rung is level with the platform

The top rung (or step) of the ladder should be level with the platform. This gives workers an additional hold and, should the worker need to access the platform, minimises risk by reducing the height over which they need to step.

9. Ascertain the level of risk based on the likelihood and severity of harm

During the inspection, a risk assessment should be conducted to determine the level of risk based on how likely an accident will occur and the severity of harm that would result. This should be used to form a basis for the systems you put in place, such as fall arrest or protection systems.

10. Record compliance or non-compliance using a ladder data sheet

Once a ladder inspection is carried out, you should be presented with a ladder data sheet, which records compliance (or non-compliance). This will also recommend any additional work that needs to be actioned to comply with ladder safety regulations. The checklist will look closely at details, such as the distance between ladder hoops and the weight rungs can withstand, along with the level of lighting in the area and whether the floor surfaces are clean and clear to prevent trips and slips.

When inspecting fixed ladders, it’s crucial that this type of work is not carried out by your staff, but by qualified experts, such as us here at High Access Solutions.

Are you compliant when it comes to your ladder safety? High Access Solutions can ensure all areas are covered in a cost-efficient manner. Contact us today on 0114 242 4811.

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