Despite recent campaigns from the Health and Safety Executive to raise awareness of the risks of working at height, there are still hundreds of cases of falls from ladders in the workplace all over Britain.
Just this month, it was reported that an employee fell from a ladder, injuring his collarbone, breaking several ribs and cutting his head, just months after a similar fall. These kinds of accidents should not happen in the first place – and when they do, it is vital that the appropriate safety measures are put in place.
Before beginning any task involving working at height, it is vital to assess the task in hand to determine the exact equipment that needs be used.
Many of risks associated with working at height are due to poor management control rather than the actual equipment – and is often the result of failure to recognise problems or provide a safe ladder system:
1. Essentially, ladders should only be used in situations that can be done more safely and quickly using equipment. Avoid working at height where possible.
2. They should only be used in low risk, short duration tasks where the existing area cannot be altered
3. The ladder must be secure and unable to slip by tying it at the top. Get someone to hold it at the base, or try using a stability device in order to prevent it from slipping.
4. If your ladder is over 5m long, remember that a person standing at the bottom will be unlikely to stop it slipping
5. Put the ladder on a firm, stable surface, ensuring the rungs are more or less exactly horizontal - use your ladder stabilisers.
6. Ladders must be set to the right angle - around 75 degrees. Never work from the top three rungs of the ladder.
7. Ensure the equipment you use for working at height, such as ladders, is properly maintained.
8. There are certain instances where you cannot eliminate risk completely, so other measures should be implemented to minimise the risk of a fall.
Guest article, 24 October 2012