Contrary to what some site managers – indeed some health and safety ‘professionals’ may have you believe, the HSE have not banned the use of ladders and stepladders.

In the widely publicised ‘Shattered Lives’ campaign and before that the ‘Don’t fall for it’ campaign, the HSE have continually stressed the dangers of work at height. It still accounts for more deaths and serious injuries in construction than anything else. Falls from ladders are still at an unacceptable level. However, that doesn’t mean that in the right circumstances using a ladder is wrong.

The hierarchy of measures in the work at height regulations are clear:

Work at height is to be avoided wherever possible. Collective fall prevention is to be used where working at height cannot be avoided but if neither of these are viable options, then suitable work a equipment eg a ladder is to be used with caution. If prevention of a fall from height cannot be guaranteed by fall prevention measures then one must aim to mitigate the consequences of such a fall.

One good way of ensuring a safer working environment is to insist on suitable training for any member of staff who is likely to use a ladder or pair of steps. Good work at height training will not only highlight the need for correct selection of work equipment but also demonstrate risk assessment techniques. Practical training on the ladder with assessment and a written test are also good benchmarks to determining whether an operative is competent.

There are many occasions when the only way to gain the necessary height to carry out a piece of work is off a ladder. Clearly, a mobile scaffold tower or powered access is often favourable in terms of overall safety but for short duration work in areas where other types of equipment may not be accessible, a ladder is often the answer.

Ladder and steps courses from BOSS Training cover all the essentials for correct ladder selection, use and inspection. Whether you choose an ‘in-house’ open ladder course or a bespoke on-site course, BOSS Training are able to discuss your exact requirements and help you to achieve a safer workplace.