Working at Height

Ladders And Their Uses

Members of the public often associate the use of a ladder with building and heavy industry. However, a surprising range of personnel need to "add height" during the course of a day. Librarians frequently use ladders, while shop assistants often use pedestals to access merchandise. If misused, this equipment is hazardous both to the user and to nearby people. Most often, a ladder is a large and heavy piece of equipment, the misuse of which could cause fatalities. This is why personnel working with or near a ladder should complete at least one Ladder Safety Training course.

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The Justification Rule

A task should always justify the use of a ladder. For example, the architect who needs to photograph the upper stories of a building for renovation purposes should first try to find existing photos and images. If this approach fails, he should explore the building, seeking windows from which he can take the images. Only when this approach fails, should he consider climbing a ladder and taking photographs.


Trained Personnel are Vital

A ladder should only be used under certain site and meteorological conditions. It is vital that there is at least one, trained person on every building, industrial and archaeological site who can recognise those conditions. The ground should be stable, level and free of mud and leaves. The ladder must be positioned at about fifteen degrees from the side of the building and the person climbing it must wear heavy-duty footwear and a hard hat.


The Condition of the Ladder

The rungs of the ladder must be in perfect condition, free of dirt and grease. The ladder operative should at all times maintain three points of contact with the equipment, that is, two feet and one hand or two hands while moving a foot. The operative should never climb the top three rungs of the ladder, unless it is a ladder with a platform designed for standing upon.


The Thirty-Minute Rule

No operative should ever spend more than thirty minutes on top of a ladder. If the task requires longer to complete, then he must descend, take a break and finish his task in stages. Every manager on a building or archaeological site must be aware of this, so he or she can supervise the work of the ladder operative. Also, the operative must not ascend or descend the ladder while carrying destabilising loads. Weather conditions play a part, too.


The Price of Safety

There are other kinds of ladder, for example, cherry pickers or small, crane-type platforms used originally by fruit pickers and that now have a variety of industrial uses. This equipment has its own hazards and safety requirements. In the UK, private firms run Ladder Safety Training courses. Prices start around 40 for an individual completing a half-day course. There are variable rates for group bookings and courses that run for a full day. The courses cover a number of kinds of ladder and advise on working at different heights. Really, it is a small price to pay for safety.