Under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, owners of ladders have a responsibility to ensure that they are regularly inspected, in working order and in a state of good repair.
In general terms, there are two aspects to any regime for checking and inspection/maintenance as follows:
- Detailed visual inspections that are carried out regularly by a competent person
- Pre-use checks that are carried out before starting a task and repeated every time something changes.
In terms of the latter, the organisation should be implementing a system whereby ladder users have the ability to undertake pre-use checks and where necessary notify the employer of any defects that they find.
Training on the use of a simple checklist can be provided to employees using the ladders. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced guidance on the matters that should be included in a pre-use check.
A detailed visual inspection is similar to the pre-use checks, in that it is used to spot defects. It can be done in-house by a competent person so it may be necessary to identify staff to carry out the inspections and provide them with the necessary information, instruction and training to do so.
Frequency of inspections can also be a matter of conjecture. Factors to consider are the manufacturer’s instructions, environment of use, age of the ladders, previous inspection outcomes, etc.
With a large number of ladders in use, it may be good practice to introduce some form of database to identify each ladder along with its use, location, and manufacturer’s recommendations. A rolling programme of inspections can then be maintained, ensuring that all ladders are inspected at the necessary intervals.
Many organisations also utilise some form of labelling or tagging system for ladders. This has the advantage of positively identifying the last inspection date and the date of next inspection, providing a clear visual record of each ladder’s safety history thereby enabling any user of the ladder to identify if it is safe to use.
These systems also give each ladder a unique reference number that then links to the corresponding written record for that ladder. This corresponding record should act as a detailed record and history sheet for each ladder, giving details of inspections, defects, repairs, who carried out the inspection and so on.