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Working at Heights

Working at Heights - Ladders

Our focus here is on safe working on ladders.

Ladders are probably one of the most used and misused pieces of access equipment. They can be a versatile tool but also have plenty of limitations and inherent dangers; basically they should only be used for short-term light work. Make certain there is no other better and safer means of access before using a ladder. Remember; even at couple of meters off the ground an awkward fall can kill you.

 Many ladder accidents occur because the ladder has not been secured and starts to slip. An unsecured ladder is often made more unstable by the practice of climbing while carrying loads and of overreaching and overbalancing. Ladders which are badly positioned or set on uneven or unstable bases are also common factors in accidents.

 Ladders kill a lot of people. Make sure the ladder You use is:  

  • Right for the job. Would scaffolding or a cherry picker be better?

  • In good shape. Ė ladders should be inspected before use

  • Secured near the top, for added safety the base of the ladder should be staked or buried to prevent slipping

  • On a firm base and footing. 4 up Ė 1 out

  • Rising at least 1 meter beyond the landing place OR that there is a proper hand hold













 Work should only be carried out from a

ladder when the job is of short duration and can be carried out safely

 When using a ladder:

  • Always have a firm grip on the ladder and keep a good balance

  • Keep you hands free and tools in a shoulder bag or belt attachment

  • Never allow more than one person on a ladder

  • Do not lean out from the ladder in any direction

  • If you have a fear of heights Ė donít climb a ladder

  • Donít stand ladder on drum, box or other unstable base

  • Never attempt to repair broken ladders.

  • Never carry loads up ladders Ė hoist it up

  • Ladder rungs must not be used as improvised

  • Ramps

  • Use both hands on stiles up and down, ALWAYS Face the ladder

  • Do not allow others to work under a ladder in use

  • Ensure your footwear is free from excessive mud or grease before you climb up the ladder


Always check out your ladder before use, look our for:

  • Loose steps or rungs (consider loose if they can be moved by hand)

  • Loose nails, screws, bolts, or other metal parts

  • Cracked, split or broken uprights, braces, steps or rungs

  • Slivers on uprights, rungs or steps

  • Damaged or worn non slip bases

 If itís a step ladder also look out for:                        

  • Loose or bent hinge spreaders

  • Wobbly (from side strain)

  • Broken stop on hinge spreaders

  • Loose hinges

 If itís an extension ladder also look out for:         

  • Defective locks that do not seat properly when the ladder is extended

  • Loose, broken, or missing extension locks

  • Deterioration of rope

 If itís a trolley ladder also look out for:

  • Worn or missing tires

  • Wheels that bind

  • Floor wheel brackets broken, loose or missing

  • Floor wheels and brackets missing

  • Ladders binding in guides

  • Ladder and rail stops broken, loose and missing

  • Rail supports broken or section of rail missing

  • Trolley wheels out of adjustment

Please report any defects found, label as defective and remove from the work area

Useful Links to Additional Information on Ladder

 Safety & working at Heights available on the


Irish Construction Industry Federation has information on Health & Safety programmes

Health and Safety Authority (Ireland) has a section on Construction Sector information. These pages contain links to legislation, guidance, accident statistics, and other relevant information. A free guide to "Building in Safety" is also available

Irish HSA Construction Safety information including relevant regulations

Construction Safety information from NISO

NI Construction industry Toolbox Talks and Site Induction Programme

Construction health and safety checklist. HSE Construction Information Sheet 17 (United Kingdom)

UK construction safety initiative Working Well Together with lots of relevant information

UK HSE information on construction safety

UK based Site Safety Equipment for working at heights

UK based National federation of Roofing Contractors

The UK Construction Health & Safety Group established by safety officers of major UK construction companies

Safesite UK based focused on fall arrest equipment

UK based Construction Steelwork Association

TUC (United Kingdom) Safety Site gives information relevant to the Construction Sector.

Working Well Together Campaign (United Kingdom)

European Agency - Accident prevention in the construction sector fact sheet

US based construction extensive Safety Information resource centre

US based Construction Safety Council

US based Construction Safety Information on scaffolds, cranes, falls etc.

US based NIOSH Construction Industry information source

OSHA Construction Industry Information

US based electronic library of construction occupational safety and health eLCOSH with extensive information resources

US based OSHA Construction Safety Training materials

US based information source on Construction Safety

Australian information on Construction Safety including Checklists, Guidance and Alerts, Codes of Practice, Falls, Noise Management, Plant and Equipment

Australian Construction Safety Checklists

International Labour Organisation provides free information on Occupational Safety and Health through it's Safe Work Programme

Construction Safety Association of Ontario with lots of downloadable resources

US based OSHA safety information on Steel Erection

US OSHA information on crane, derrick and hoist safety

US OSHA information on scaffolding

Australian Construction Safety Checkslists

Australian information on precast safety

The Australian Concrete and Masonry Cutting and Drilling has been developed by the tripartite Commission for Occupational Safety and Health to provide practical guidance on meeting the requirements in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations relating to concrete and masonry cutting and drilling at workplaces.

New Zealand  - Approved code of practice for the Safe Handling, Transportation and Erection of Pre-Cast Concrete, excavation of shafts and foundations and demolition 

Construction safety association of Canada commercial/institutional information

CEFNI Construction Safety Toolbox Talks and Site Induction Programme

UK based MOHSG Safety Clip Art

US based OSHA e-tools for safety training and multimedia safety training resources

Safety Talks & Safety Slogans at US based Green Mango

Australian Small Business Health & Safety Toolkit

Useful Resources from Aldrich including acid base concentrations and properties of common solvents

US based EHS Freeeware online database of downloadable software

Tool Box talks  US based

US based OSHA Construction Safety Training materials

US based site with Construction safety talks and photographs

US based OSHA Self Inspection Checklists

Canadian Construction Safety Downloads

Links to other sources of information on Construction Safety


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