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A third of all reported falls from a height incidents involve stepladders and ladders – on average this accounts for fourteen deaths and twelve hundred major incidents to employees each year. Many of these injuries are caused by inappropriate or incorrect use of the ladder.

In the United Kingdom the Work at Height Regulations 2005 sets out in law the safety regulations a business must adhere to guarantee the safety of an employee and apply to all work at height where there is danger of a fall that is likely to cause injury. They place duties on employers, the self-employed and any person who controls the work of others, including building owners or facilities managers who may contract others to work at height.

In the rules all dutyholders must ensure that:

  • All work at height is correctly planned and organised
  • The contractors involved in work at height are qualified
  • The dangers from work at height are assessed, and proper work equipment is selected and used
  • The hazards of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed
  • The equipment used for work at height is properly maintained and inspected

Working at a height injuries

Working from a height can be hazardous and provided that your employer gives you the correct stepladder or ladder and training the risks can be minimised. However, the injuries sustained from a fall from a ladder may include broken arms, wrists, legs and head injuries. Examples of the situations where somebody could fall from a ladder can include:

  • A fitter undertaking routine maintaince: Using a ladder to reach a venting duct; a employee’s ladder may fall down a wall if it is not secured at the top of the ladder.
  • Electrical fitter working with live cables: Using a step ladder an electrician may accidentally reach for a live cable to secure a wobbly ladder.
  • A cleaner cleaning windows: Working outdoors, a window cleaner may fall from a ladder if it was positioned on uneven ground such as a slope.

See our video on how you and your business can stay safe at work. The video is created by the Health and Safety Executive, who is not only a completely independent regulator of safety in the United Kingdom, but also provides guidance and training and support to business on how they can ensure the safety of their employees at work.

Solutions to common causes from a fall from a ladder

An employee over-reaches: It is best to keep your body centred within the ladder and always keep three points of contact with the ladder.
A contractor slips down the ladder: Try and keep the rungs clean and in good condition. Wearing non-slip boots, that have clean soles will help stop you from falling from the ladder. Also be sure that the ladder is the right height to fit the job and that you keep at least three points of contact with the ladder.
The ladder wobbles or slips from position: Put the step ladder correctly on a firm, level surface and secure the ladder at the bottom and top if needed.
The ladder breaks: Position the ladder correctly, using the ‘1 in 4’ principle for leaning ladders. Also try and carry lightweight tools and materials up the ladder and not overburden it with weight.

Make sure the ladder you use is safe

Every time you use a ladder you need to carryout a pre-use check beforehand to ensure that it is safe for use. The advantage of performing regular pre-use inspections is that they give you the possibility to pick up any immediate/serious flaws before they cause an accident:

  • Check the ladder’s stiles: Don’t use the ladder if they are bent or damaged the ladder could buckle or collapse
  • Stiles need to be in good condition: Don’t use the ladder if they are bent or split the ladder could collapse
  • Check the feet: Avoid the use of the ladder if they are missing or worn or damaged the ladder could slip
  • Check the ladder’s rungs: Avoid the use of the ladder if they are bent, missing or loose the ladder could become unstable.
  • Check the locking bars: If you are using a step ladder check that they are not bent or that the fixings are worn or damaged
  • Check the step-ladder’s platform: Avoid the use of the ladder if it is split or buckled the ladder could become unstable or collapse
  • Check your step ladder steps: Avoid the use of the ladder if the fixings are loose they could collapse

If you’ve been involved in an accident or have been hurt in a fall from a ladder at work, then speak to someone on our compensation team and they’ll tell you if you have a claim for compensation. Fill in our online claim form or ask for a call back using our free accident at work call back service.