How to stay safe while working at height
Working at height is one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries at work, representing 28% of fatal injuries in the five-year period up to 2017. There were also 43,000 non-fatal injuries caused by falls from heights ¹. While it is advisable to avoid work at height when it is reasonable to do so, there will be times when it is necessary. By taking appropriate precautions, you can minimise the risks associated with working at height.
Using ladders safely
The Health and Safety Executive suggests that using a ladder is appropriate for work at height for low risk tasks of short duration. When using a ladder, you should always take a few simple steps to stay safe.
- Do as much work as possible from the ground and use extendable tools where suitable.
- Always use the right type of ladder for the job. For commercial and trade use, ladders should be certified to EN 131 Professional standard.
- Always check that your ladder is in good working condition prior to use. You should check the feet, the rungs and the stiles for damage. On a stepladder, you should also check the platform and locking bars.
- Make sure the ladder cannot slip; this may mean tying the ladder to secure it or using a stabilising device. (Ladders over 3 m in height are required by EN 131 to have a stabiliser bar fitted.)
- Always have three points of contact with the ladder; this can be two feet and one hand but may also be two feet and your body (knees or chest) if you need your hands to work.
- Never over-reach: keep your body centred on the ladder at all times.
- Never exceed the safe working height of the ladder. On a leaning ladder you should never work off the top three rungs and the ladder should extend 1 m above where you are working. On a stepladder you should only stand on the top three steps if there is a suitable handhold.
- Never exceed the safe working load of the steps; remember that the maximum load includes any equipment that you need to have with you.
- Never have more than one person on a ladder at one time.
- If you are using your ladder to carry out electrical work, make sure it is made from a suitable non-conductive material such as glass fibre.
- Ensure you have received adequate safety training from your employer before starting any work at height.
- Ensure emergency procedures are in place in the event of an accident.