TOOL BOX TALK
Working with Ladders & Stepladders
Date: Area: Supervisor/Foreman: Company:
Ladders and stepladders are amongst the most commonly used piece of equipment when working at height on
construction sites and as a result the most misused. Where work at height is necessary you need to justify
whether a ladder or stepladder is the most suitable choice or is there a need to erect a scaffold.
The recently introduced Work at Height Regulations does not ban the use of ladders but sets out hierarchy of
controls as to the selection and suitability of the choice and the need to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk
assessment but ultimately you will need a safe place to work.
Most accidents occur because the ladder has not been secured and it starts to slip. An unsecured ladder is
made more unstable when it is being climbed while carrying loads, by overstretching, overbalancing and by
not being long enough to reach the area intended. Always ensure that a ladder is tied off at the top to a suitable
point with both stiles tied, where this is not practical use a ladder stability device with an anti-slip device, or
securely wedge the bottom to prevent it from slipping and as a last resort get a colleague to foot it.
Ladders should extend at least 1m or 4 rungs above a landing point to provide a secure handhold and at the
correct angle 1 in 4 or 75º. Always keep 3 point contact (1 hand 2 feet or 2 hands 1 foot)
Stepladders are not designed for any sideways loading and could easily topple over if this occurs. To avoid
this position the stepladders in the direction you will be working or alternatively secure the steps to a suitable
secure point. Otherwise a more suitable type of access equipment should be used.
Make sure tools are carried in a shoulder bag or holster attached to a belt so that both hands are free for
climbing. Heavy or bulky loads should not be carried up or down ladders use a gin wheel or other lifting
equipment ie crane.
Ladders and stepladders must be strong enough for the task and in good condition. They should be checked
before use and if part of a scaffold system must be inspected every seven days.
As a guide when using ladders and stepladders:
Check the stiles are not damaged, buckled or warped, no rungs missing or cracked and the feet are in good
repair and level
Do not use home-made devices or those made for the DIY market as they are not strong or robust enough
Never carry out any repairs to damaged equipment
Ensure they are positioned for use on a firm level surface. Never place them on bricks or packing
Make sure the top of the ladder rests on a solid surface not against a fragile or insecure surface
Always lean the ladder at the correct slope 1 in 4 or 75º
Never use the top three rungs on ladders and the top three steps on stepladders
Ensure the restraint device on stepladders is fully opened and any locking device is engaged
Lastly always ensure your footwear is clear of any mud or other substance that may cause you to slip from the
ladder or stepladder.
Even by taking all these precautions working from ladders and stepladders can be dangerous with many
accidents occurring during work lasting less than 30 minutes so take extra care and attention.
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