Inspecting a ladder
Employers need to make sure that any ladder or stepladder is both suitable for the work task and in a safe condition before use. As a guide, only use ladders or stepladders that:
- have no visible defects. They should have a pre-use check each working day;
- have an up-to-date record of the detailed visual inspections carried out regularly by a competent person. These should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Ladders that are part of a scaffold system still have to be inspected every seven days as part of the scaffold inspection requirements;
- are suitable for the intended use, ie are strong and robust enough for the job;
- have been maintained and stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
There are two methods for inspecting ladders:
- Detailed visual inspections – these should be carried out regularly by a competent person. These inspections will be outlined in the manufacturer’s instruction manual.
- Pre-use checks – these should be carried out by the user, at the beginning of the working day/before starting a task, and repeated every time something changes – like the ladder being dropped or moved to a different area.
Detailed visual inspections
A detailed visual inspection is similar to pre-use checks, in that it is used to spot defects and can be done on site by a competent employee. Pre-use checks make sure that a ladder is safe to use and are for the immediate benefit of the ladder user. These checks do not need to be recorded. Any problems or issues should be reported to a manager.
Detailed visual inspections are the responsibility of the employer. They should be carried out at fixed intervals and recorded. Records of these inspections provide a snapshot of the state of the ladders over time.
When doing an inspection, look for:
• damaged or worn ladder feet;
• twisted, bent or dented stiles;
• cracked, worn, bent or loose rungs;
• missing or damaged tie rods;
• cracked or damaged welded joints, loose rivets or damaged stays.
Pre-use checks and inspections of ladder stability devices and other accessories should be performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
The check should include:
- the stiles – make sure they are not bent or damaged, as the ladder could buckle or collapse;
- the feet – if they are missing, worn or damaged the ladder could slip. Also check the ladder feet when moving from soft/dirty ground (eg dug soil, loose sand/stone, a dirty workshop) to a smooth, solid surface (eg paving slabs), to make sure the actual feet and not the dirt (eg soil, chippings or embedded stones) are making contact with the ground;
- the rungs – if they are bent, worn, missing or loose, the ladder could fail;
- the locking mechanism – does the mechanism work properly? Are components or fixings bent, worn or damaged? If so, the ladder could collapse. Ensure any locking bars are fully engaged;
- the stepladder platform – if it is split or buckled, the ladder could become unstable or collapse;
- the steps or treads on stepladders – if they are contaminated, they could be slippery; if the fixings are loose on the steps, they could collapse.
If you spot any of the above defects, do not use the ladder and notify your employer.