Have Ladders Been Banned?
Updated Guidance For 2020/21
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Is it safe and legal for tradespeople to use ladders?
Contrary to what many believe, the use of ladders has not been banned by the Health and Safety Executive in the UK.
There are rules, however, about when and where they can be used.
Every tradesperson or business that works at height should first conduct a risk assessment before starting any work.
For low-risk and short-term tasks, a ladder might be suitable.
For medium-risk tasks or when the tradesperson needs to spend several hours at height, an access tower could be more appropriate.
For higher-risk projects or when several different tradespeople need to use the access equipment at the same time, a full scaffold setup should be considered.
When a Ladder Can be Used – Examples
As a general rule of thumb, tradespeople can use ladders when it’s safe to do so, and the task can be completed in 30 minutes or less.
A good example of acceptable ladder use would be an installer fitting an external security light or camera to a wall.
Inspections can usually be done via a ladder as can some cleaning tasks.
If the tradesperson cannot maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder (i.e. they need to use both hands most of the time to complete the task), then another form of access equipment should be considered.
Alternatives – Option 1: Access Platforms
If the task can’t be completed safely via a ladder, the next option to consider is access towers.
A typical access tower. Image by BPS Solutions
Good quality access towers can be purchased for around £2000 – £2500, and they last for many years. They can also be hired for less than £100 per week.
These towers should be considered for tasks where the tradesperson will be at height for more than 30 minutes and needs to use both hands most of the time.
While they aren’t suitable for high-risk and long-term projects such as re-roofing or building an extension, they are often used by:
- Gutterers for repairs and installation of roof gutter systems.
- Cladding and roofline installers for the installation of fascias, soffits and cladding boards.
- Window fitters.
- Roofers replacing tiles at the lower section of the roof.
- Minor repairs to walls and some easy-to-reach chimneys etc.
- Painting and decorating at height.
Access towers are best used on projects where a ladder isn’t suitable, but a full scaffold setup cannot be justified.
Alternatives – Option 2: Scaffold
A scaffold setup is one of the most expensive options but may be required for some projects where access platforms and ladders aren’t suitable.
- Retiling a roof due to the weight of the tiles and the edge protection needed to prevent falls.
- Wall rendering.
- Chimneys that are difficult to reach.
- Bridging over conservatories or other obstacles so the roof above can be accessed safely.
Alternatives – Option 3: Scissor Lifts, Cherry Pickers and Other Mechanical Access Equipment
Cherry pickers, scissor lifts and other aerial platforms can be hired and are often cheaper than the cost of a full scaffold setup.
The suitability of these will depend on the project and the all-important risk assessment.
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