Open-access content 6th October 2008
Arguments as to the status of temporary staff have rumbled on for years but the recent announcement on the Agency Workers Directive may begin to bring clarity to the issue
by Gloria Dixon
25 September 2008
There's a widely-held perception that no one ever died from using a ladder. But try telling that to the family of the maintenance fitter who lost his footing on the second rung of a ladder. His foot slipped through the rungs and he was killed when his head hit the floor as he fell backwards.
Last year seven workers died and over a thousand suffered serious injury following a fall from a ladder. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a simple message for ladder users: if it's right to use a ladder, use the right ladder and use it safely.
Ladder Exchange 2008
During September 2008, as part of its ongoing Shattered Lives campaign, the HSE is launching a Ladder Exchange initiative which aims to take 5,000 'dodgy' ladders out of the workplace. The initiative provides ladder users with the opportunity to replace their ailing ladders with a new set at a reduction of up to 50 per cent off the purchase price.
The idea is simple: ladders should be checked before use. If you find a ladder in your workplace that is bent, battered or broken then it can be exchanged for a new one at a discount of up to 50 per cent through one of the following outlets:
- HSS Hire
- Speedy Hire
- SGB Hire and Sale
The initiative builds on the success of Ladder Exchange 2007, which saw more than 4,000 faulty ladders taken out of Britain's workplaces.
When visiting workplaces, staff from local authorities and the HSE routinely ask about ladders and will take appropriate action where they see a "dodgy" ladder.
Inspectors routinely find workers with little or no training using bent, battered or broken ladders.
In such cases work could be stopped, the ladder removed, and in some cases formal enforcement action taken.
Is it right to use a ladder?
An assessment of the safety risks relating to the work task will inform the decision whether to work at height. There is a legal requirement to avoid working at height if it is reasonably practicable to carry out the work in another way. The risk assessment will also inform an employer's selection of the most suitable access equipment if they do need to work at height.
Ladders can be used if, after assessing the risks, the use of other work equipment is not justified because of the low risk and short duration. Short duration is taken to be between 15 and 30 minutes. Ladders can also be used where existing features, such as building design, prevent the deployment of other access equipment such as work platforms.
Is it the right ladder?
When selecting a ladder or stepladder for use at work the HSE and The Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform recommend Class 1 'industrial' or EN131. In addition to this, employers need to factor in the worst type of surface conditions their workers may come across, such as smooth, wet floor tiles, when selecting or buying a ladder. Manufacturers should be able to indicate the types of surfaces where their products are intended to be used. Prior to use all ladders and stepladders should have:
- Pre-use checks for visual defects at the beginning of each working day
- Ladders should be inspected at suitable intervals where they are exposed to conditions which might cause their deterioration. The outcome of such inspections should be recorded
- Any ladder stability devices used with the ladder should be inspected in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
- Workers should only use a ladder after they have shown that they are competent to do so and are trained to use the equipment safely, are aware of its limitations and are physically able to undertake the work.
Gloria Dixon is a policy advisor at the Health and Safety Executive
- Ladder Exchange 2008: www.hse.gov.uk/falls/ladderexchange
- Information about the safe use of ladders: http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/ladders.htm
- Information on HSE's 'Shattered Lives' Campaign: http://www.hse.gov.uk/shatteredlives/index.htm
Key points at a glance
- During September 2008 many Local Authorities are including ladder inspections in their inspection visits
- Where these inspectors see a 'dodgy' ladder being used, they can seize it and take further action against the organisation
- Facilities managers should ensure that all their ladder equipment is in good working condition and that their workers are competent to use them safely
- During September 2008 a number of ladder retailer and hirers will be offering discounts of up to 50 per cent on new ladders in exchange for a 'dodgy' one