People don’t tend to think of ladders as dangerous construction equipment, but you’d be surprised at just how often accidents occur.
 
At home ladders are linked to more deaths and serious injuries than any other product. Falls from ladders are responsible for 11% of all work-related deaths in Australia. And already this year, over 60 ladder incidents have been reported to WorkSafe – sparking renewed focus on ladder safety around the country.
 
Use this safety refresher for practical guidance on using ladders, and assess just how safely you work.
 
1. Choose the right ladder
 
There are over 16 types of domestic ladders, and four or more types of industrial ladders to cater for a wide range of applications. With this amount of choice in the market it’s important to choose the right type of ladder the task you will be performing.
 
  • Each ladder has its own benefits and restrictions – so get to know your ladders if you will be using them at work.
  • Consider whether your ladder is the correct type and height for the work you need to undertake. If it is too short you may end up overreaching and jeopardising your safety, if it lacks a platform you may be putting yourself and others at greater risk.
 
2. Know your loads
 
Always use a ladder that is rated for industrial use and never exceed the weight limit it has been tested for.
 
  • Industrial ladders must be rated for loads of 120kg or more and will be labelled for industrial use. Domestic ladders need only be rated for 100kg or more and will be labelled accordingly. Remember to factor in the weight of tools or materials you will be lifting or handling during ladder use.
  • All ladders used industrially must also meet Australian standards. See: https://www.standards.org.au/standards-catalogue/sa-snz/building/sf-013
 
3. Safe set up
 
Set up is vital to the safe use of ladders – so remember to look down and all around before you climb up.
 
  • Ladders must always be placed on firm, level, non-slip surface surfaces. The use of anti-slip gutter guards, leg levellers and stabilisers can further enhance safety.
  • Be mindful of nearby objects that could impact ladders – like opening doors and windows.
  • Ideally, extension ladders will be secured at the top, bottom or both. When this isn’t possible, ensure someone is holding the ladder for the duration of its use.
  • Hinges on A-frame ladders must be fully open and locked into place before use.
 
4. Pre-climb checks
 
A few more “pre-climb” checks can go a long way:
 
  • Prior to use, make sure you are fit to climb and that your ladder is in safe working order – every single time. Inspect hinges and check for damage and faults, like rust, broken rungs, rails and footings.
  • Ensure that all employees who will be using ladders to work at heights greater than 2m are certified for working at height.
 
5. Safe climbing

 
For optimal safety when using ladders:
 
  • Face the ladder at all times.
  • Always maintain three points of contact – in other words: two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet. Never carry loads too large to maintain three points of contact.
  • Do not reach or lean away from the ladder – this will affect your stability and centre of gravity.
  • Never allow more than one person to use a ladder at one time.
  • Work involving restricted vision (like welding or metal cutting) should not be performed from a ladder.
  • Never climb past the second-top rung of a ladder, and always climb to the very bottom rung before stepping off. A-frame ladders should never be straddled.
 
How many of these rules do you abide by – at home or at work? (Be honest!)
 
6. Ladder alternatives
 

When working at height ladders are considered a last resort. Before using a ladder consider whether there are any suitable alternatives.
 
Who is most at risk?
 
Key WHS statistics for Australia in 2019 tell us that workers aged 65 and over have the highest rate of work-related fatality. This fact is also true for ladder safety, with men in this age group particularly at risk.
 
A study recently published by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health confirms this, reporting that 82% of deaths from ladder use during a 10 year period were of people aged 60 and over. The study cites poorer eyesight and reduced balance as major contributing factors.
 
For more information on ladder safety visit your local Safe Work (or WorkSafe) website, watch this short safety video or find out about (Coates Hire Training opportunities).
 
Have you ever become complacent when using ladders – at home or at work? What alternatives do you offer your team for working at height? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn.
 

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