Research Report on the Safe Use of Ladders

Falls from any height kill many workers every year, including those who fall
from moveable ladders. Statistical figures show that such falls also lead to
thousands major injuries, of which about a third were the result of falls from
moveable ladders. There will always be circumstances when using a ladder is the
best means of working at height. This report wants to ensure the safety of
those who choose to work this way.

The report details the background, methodology and findings of an extensive
investigation into the issue of the performance of leaning ladder stability
devices and manual ladder footing. The work has been funded by the Health and
Safety Executive to provide a factual basis on which to make recommendations
regarding safety practice within the community.

Manual footing and mechanical stability devices are cited as being required to
improve the stability of ladders prior to tying-off or during short duration
tasks. However, what is meant (or understood) by the term footing is undefined
and it's effectiveness unquantified. Accordingly, mechanical devices intended
to offer the requisite equal or better performance also remain unquantified,
and relative benefits are therefore undetermined.

There is a pressing need to understand the requirements of ladder users in
terms of the envelope of performance that ladders must provide. As part of
this, the interpretation of manual footing and the stability benefits that such
interpretations bring must also be quantified to ensure that the current
requirements offer the best level of safety to ladder users.

Key recommendations are that:

  • There is a need for a technical standard to ensure quality and
  • Devices could be certified for use, the criteria being demonstrable
    compliance with adequate performance in all failure modes
  • Footing technique should be prescriptive and its limitations recognised
  • An extensive degree of market and user education is required

Manual footing of ladder has traditionally been seen as a good practice for
improving safety, particularly whilst a ladder is tied off or for short
duration tasks. However, this research demonstrates that:

  • There is a great deal of imprecision in what is meant by footing
  • Footing offers little or no benefit in preventing failures at the ladder top
  • Footing offers an unnecessary increase in performance of ladder frictional
  • Footing does have the potential to assist in preventing rotational or flip
    failures, but only if correctly undertaken by loading the sides of the ladder
  • A structured and disciplined footing methodology is required whereby the
    ‘footer' should be instructed to impart a particularly symmetric force, acting
    centrally and squarely within the ladder and balanced left to right.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: Health and Safety Executive