Safe use of stepladders

Safe use of stepladders

  • Date: Monday 29th March 2021
  • PDF: Download

The risks associated with working at height from a stepladder are ever present whatever industry you work in. Let’s look at some tips that can help you in your planning for and use of stepladders.

Prior to using a stepladder ensure that all activities are planned following the hierarchy of risk control for working at height with avoidance being a priority.

Choosing the right stepladder will make a big difference regarding working safely. One of the causes of accidents when working at height is loss of stability. This can be a result of using the wrong stepladder or one that is too short or unsuitable for the task.

Before conducting your short duration activity, ensure suitable and sufficient risk assessments are in place and where applicable you are trained to use the stepladder.

When using a stepladder to carry out a work task firstly ensure the stepladder is of professional grade (EN 131). Professional grade stepladders will have permanent labelling. The stepladders also need to have been inspected and in good condition.

If your stepladder meets these requirements and you are ready to work, check all four stepladder feet are in contact with the ground and that the steps are level. Whilst working only carry light materials and tools, don’t overreach, don’t stand and work on the top three steps unless there is a suitable handhold, ensure any locking devices are engaged and try to position the stepladder to face the work activity and not side on.

In circumstances where a risk assessment may show it is safer to work side-on or where side-on loadings cannot be avoided, you should prevent the steps from tipping over by tying or using a more suitable type of access equipment. While using stepladders in this manner, ensure you maintain three points of contact at the working position. This means two feet and one hand, or when both hands need to be free for a brief period, two feet and the body supported by the stepladder.

Never position the stepladder in a place where you are behind an opening door or on a route without adequate warning to potential users of the access way. Barriers and warning signs will be required.

When deciding if it is safe to carry out a particular task on a stepladder where you cannot maintain a handhold, this will need to be justified taking into account: the height of the task, whether a handhold is still available to steady yourself before and after the task, whether it is light work, if it avoids side loading, if it avoids overreaching and if the stepladder can be tied (e.g. when side-on working).

Where two hands need to be free for a period for light work keep two feet on the same step and the body (knees or chest) supported by the stepladder to maintain three points of contact. Make sure a safe handhold is available.

Remember, any concerns regarding safely working at height using stepladders need to be directed towards supervisors or managers.

More information can be found by clicking here.

Source: Terry Burdon

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