The importance of securing your ladder
Posted on 29th Mar, 2021 | By Lorretta Tatham
Ladders are instrumental aids in a countless tasks across a huge number of sectors, and it’s one of the standard pieces of equipment in the average tradesman’s arsenal. Their widespread nature also goes some way to explaining why they’re involved in so many accidents; a third of all annually reported falls from height incidents in the UK involve ladders or stepladders in some way.
We offer a range of safety courses in house here at Browns Safety, each of them designed to prevent just those sorts of accidents from occurring. And one of the most crucial points we often cover in those courses concerns the act of securing the ladder. This is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of using it.
There are three main ways to secure the ladder:
- Tie the stiles
- Use a ladder stabilisation device
- Foot the ladder
Let’s look at each one in a little more detail.
Tying the stiles
Your pre-use checks of using the ladder will involve an inspection of the stiles. They have a critical impact on safety, and a ladder with stiles that are bent or damaged is automatically unfit for use, as it could cause it to collapse. What’s more, an additional risk assessment will need to be performed with regard to the specific environment and circumstances, to ensure that tying the ladder is indeed a viable option from a safety perspective.
If you are securing your ladder by tying the stiles, it can be done at the top of the ladder, at the bottom, or both for maximum security. Proper straps or ropes will need to be used to tie the ladder to a suitable point, which could be a set of handrails for example, or solid window frames.
Crucially, a ladder should never be tied by its rungs, where you’re actually going to be putting your feet, as it can present a serious and possibly even deadly hazard. And don’t forget that if the ladder in question is an extension ladder, it needs to extend at least one metre above the surface you’re planning to access – which in turn means that the straps need to be tied a minimum of one metre below the top of the ladder.
Using a ladder stabilisation device
There are various ladders stabilisation devices available on the market, which you can use to provide additional safety value and peace of mind. The ladder stabilisation devices can generally be categorised into at least two groups – base supports, and stand-offs (or stand-off brackets).
What is a base support?
A base support is exactly what it sounds like – a support for the base of the ladder, which holds and distributes the weight of the access equipment more evenly. One good example of a base support are anti-slip boards, which are typically used to lock the ladder feet into place.
What are stand-off supports?
A stand-off support is useful for when the ladder would normally be resting on a weak surface, such as a plastic gutter. Essentially, it works by giving the ladder a solid surface to brace itself against, so that the safety of the user isn’t solely dependent on the integrity of the weak surface.
Footing the ladder
Footing the ladder involves at least two people, and it’s essentially the term used to describe when another person physically holds the ladder in place, planting their feet and maintaining a firm grip of the stiles.
Now, this obviously comes with a marginally greater level of risk, and as such, it should only be attempted once all other methods of securing the ladder have already been deemed unsuitable. The Health and Safety Executive itself advises only footing ladders where ‘reasonably practicable’. The practice is especially discouraged with ladders that are notably long, and if you find yourself considering it as an option, it’s first worth thinking about whether another piece of access equipment (such as a mobile tower) can help you do the job more safely instead.
And if you decide that they could benefit from any additional training or guidance, that’s exactly what we provide here at Browns Safety. We provide a wide range of accredited safety courses on a range of topics, including basic Working at Height training, and access equipment courses. Since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we also now offer a comprehensive range of online safety courses. We are currently taking bookings for these courses, so if you’d like to reserve your places, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can click through to the main course pages listed above, or alternatively contact us directly by calling us on 01282 615517, or emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org.