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Steps to safe practice

Safety first

Author: Sharon Ensbury/27 July 2015/Categories: HEALTH & SAFETY, Safety when working at height

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Safety first. Two small words, yet so very important, especially when it comes to preventing workplace accidents or injuries. Safety lies with the user, and also with making sure correct procedures are set in place and followed. Risk increases when working at height, so any such work should be undertaken only by those competent enough to do so, and with adequate supervision.



Working at height can be defined as any work involving use of an elevated surface, such as a platform, stepladder or leaning ladder. Health and Safety advises that, when using a stepladder, you check:



  • that locking bars are fixed and in good order,
  • that stepladder feet are all in place and without excessive wear or damage
  • that the stepladder platform is undamaged and stable
  • that the steps and treads are clear from contamination
  • that the steps and stiles are unbent and fixed securely in place

When using a leaning ladder the same safety checks apply, except of course for the locking bar. Please note that these are just general recommendations – your workplace should have their own policy for working at height, which should be consulted whenever such work is undertaken.

It is said that Michelangelo, after years spent atop ladder platforms painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, could only read things by tilting his head back and looking at them as he held them above his head. While such repetitive strain injuries sound extreme, it’s not recommended to spend more than 30 minutes at a time working at height without taking a break.

There are several other things to consider when working at height. Your ladder should be made of the correct material for the job at hand (for example aluminium ladders are not suitable for working with electricity), your environment should be safe (check for overhead wires and moving equipment) and the floor surface should be clean, dry and clear of obstacles. All equipment to be carried up and down the ladder should be attached securely with harness or tool belts, to remove the risk of falling. And don’t over-reach – it’s recommended that the top of the ladder be no lower than your belt buckle, so if you cannot reach the work required from this point, your ladder is too short for the job.

At Action Handling we stock a comprehensive range of ladders and safety steps. Whatever your job requirements, we have a ladder to suit your needs. And our custom design service ensures that, if you need something outside the ordinary, we can make it for you.


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