We make no apologies about covering this subject again in our blog. A fall from height is still one of the biggest killers to anyone in the construction industry, or those involved in home improvements. In 2013, one-third of all workplace fatalities are caused by falls from height – the single highest killer.
We have a few projects that will help you be safe, and we will highlight these where they are relevant in this post. Here is a very quick summary of the guidance for using ladders, scaffolding and scaffolding towers safely, but the links will provide you much more information. We urge you to read and not to risk becoming a grisly statistic.
For more information about this have a look at our project on ladder safety.
Ladders are not a very stable way to work at height. They should only be used for short durations and when the risk of falling is low. It is suggested that if you are going to be working for over 30 minutes then perhaps you should consider a more stable alternative to a ladder. This said, the duration is not really the critical factor; if the ground is not stable or level, you are going to have to lean out from the ladder, or the ladder cannot be secured then a ladder is not the appropriate tool.
Summary Guideline for working with a ladder:
1. Check the ladder before you start. Inspect the following for damage or weakness:
c. Rungs (including steps or treads)
d. Locking mechanism (including step ladder platform)
2. Place the ladder safely :
a. use the 1 in 4 rule, where the feet should be no less than a ¼ the distance from the base as the height of the ladder, or at approximately 75% at most.
b. Look out for overhead line and wire
c. Ideally secure the base of the ladder and don’t us a weak upper surface (like a gutter or on glass). Tie the ladder where ever possible, footing is a last resort
d. Don’t stand the ladder on movable objects or vehicles
e. Descend it to extend it
3. Climbing the ladder:
a. Don’t over reach or risk toppling over
b. Use 3 point of contact as a minimum
c. Climb facing the rungs
d. Don’t overload yourself or the ladder
4. Working from the ladder:
a. Don’t over reach
b. When working with both hands, keep this to a minimum
c. Avoid sideways forces or side loading
Please download and print the HSE guide on ladder safety for further detailed guidance for using Ladders:
Summary Guidance for Using Scaffolding
Scaffolding is a trade that is best left to the professionals. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 dictates that the scaffold should be erected to a “generally recognised standard configuration, eg NASC Technical Guidance TG20 for tube and fitting scaffolds” or a similar standard. If not it needs to be designed and then signed off by a trained, competent person.
You can find a scaffolding contractor in your area here:
They will hire and erect the scaffold on your behalf. They will also guide you with regards to working from scaffolding. There is further information in the HSE Working at Height Guide:
Summary Guidance for Using Scaffolding Towers
It is not only falling from the tower that you have to be concerned with, but also you should ensure it cannot over turn. Ensure that you follow the instructions closely when erecting your tower, you will get these from the manufacturer or the hire shop.
A brief summary of the main things to consider when using a Scaffold Tower is as follows:
1. Situating your Scaffold Tower:
a. Never exceed the manufacturers recommended height
b. Ensure that the ground is firm and level.
c. Ensure that the castors are locked and outriggers are in place before using the tower
2. Using the scaffold tower:
a. Don’t use it in high winds
b. Work from the tower – don’t put another ladder or platform on it
c. Make sure you know who should and how often it should be inspected
3. Moving the tower:
a. Never move the tower when there are people of equipment on it
b. Reduce the height to 4 m or the manufacturers recommended height
c. Check for over head lines and obstructions
d. Make sure that the ground is level and only manually push the tower
We have a lot more information about scaffold towers on our project page:
Please stay safe and don’t take any unnecessary risks. This way you will enjoy your DIY and not become a statistic!
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