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Ladder Step

How To Ensure You Are Safe On A Ladder

Many people use ladders quite often without much thought as to how safe it is. This article outlines the basics of ladder safety.

Ladders

As a plumber you’ll need to use ladders occasionally, either working from the ladder directly, or using it to gain access to the place of work, or a scaffold. In the main the ladder should only be used as a means of access, or for working from for a short period of time (up to 30 minutes). Because ladders are frequently used, their condition tends to be neglected which can lead to defects. It’s advisable to closely inspect any ladder before use. Ladders on construction sites tend to be made either of wood or aluminium. In domestic situations aluminium ladders and steps are probably more common than wooden ladders, but the chances are that during your plumbing career you’ll spend a lot of time up both!

You should always check wooden ladders for the following, to ensure they are safe for use:

• The stiles/strings are not cracked nor have any warping

• The rungs are not split or dirty

• Tie-rods are not missing and are not damaged

• There’s no wood rot or temporary repairs

• The ladder shouldn’t be painted as the paint may be hiding defects

For metallic (aluminium/stainless steel) ladders the following should be checked:

• The stiles and rungs should be checked for signs of corrosion

• The ladder ‘feet’ must be level and intact

• The ladder must be free from dents

• Rungs and stiles must be free from cracks and other structural defects

Short ladders can be carried by one person, on the shoulder in either the horizontal or vertical position. Longer ladders should be carried by two people horizontally on the shoulders one at either end holding the upper stile. When carrying ladders you should take care when rounding corners and when passing between or under obstacles.

To ensure safe working there are certain rules which must be followed when erecting ladders. These are:

• The ladder must be placed on firm level ground. Bricks or blocks shouldn’t be used to ‘pack up’ under the stiles to compensate for uneven ground.

• If using extension ladders they must be erected in the closed position and extended one section at a time.

There must be at least four rungs overlap on each extension for ladders up to 6m and four rungs overlap for ladders over 4m.

• If the ladder is placed in an exposed position it must be guarded by barriers.

• The angle of the ladder to the building must be in the proportion 1 out 4 up - 750.

• The ladder must be secured at the top (where possible) and also at the bottom by lashing to a stake (where possible) to prevent it slipping or falling sideways. Alternatively, the ladder may be ‘steadied’ by someone holding the stiles, and placing one foot on the bottom rung; this is commonly known as ‘footing’ the ladder. This person must not under any circumstances move away whilst someone is up the ladder.

• When the ladder provides access to a roof or working platform the ladder must extend at least 1.05 metres or five rungs above the access point.

• Ladders must not rest against any fragile surface (e.g. glass window) or against fittings such as gutters or drainpipes – these could easily give way and result in an accident occurring.

• When climbing up a ladder you must use both hands to grip the rungs. This will give you better protection if you slip.

• All ladders, step ladders and mobile tower scaffolds must be inspected before and after use, and must be tested and examined by a competent person on a regular basis. The results of the tests and inspection must be recorded; any ladder etc. found to be defective must be suitably marked and removed from service. The picture shows a correctly positioned ladder, securely lashed to the scaffold, with adequate extension past the access point (1.05m or 5 rungs).

Step ladders

Step ladders are often used by plumbers. The first essential check before using step ladders is to make sure the ground is level and firm. All four legs of the step ladder should rest firmly and squarely on the ground. They'll do this provided that the floor or ground on which they stand is level and the steps themselves are not worn or damaged. The top of the steps shouldn’t be used unless it’s constructed as a working platform. On wooden step ladders, check that the hinges are in good condition and that rope is of equal length and not frayed.

This article has been put together by the distance learning organisation Start Learning who are experts in home study. If you want to find out more about Plumbing or many other distance learning courses please browse their website:
Start Learning

A good way to find out more about Plumbing is to sign up for a distance learning course on the subject. By studying in your free time and pace, you can gain the necessary knowledge while tailoring it to suit your schedule.

Kerrana McAvoy
Academic Director – Start Learning

Start Learning Blog

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