Misuse of ladders can – and unfortunately have – resulted in injury and death on Australian work sites. Not withstanding the devastation this causes to many lives, these incidents can become incredibly costly to the company responsible. Over one-quarter (28 per cent) of construction deaths in Australia from 2010-2013 were caused by falls from a height and most involved ladders, mobile ramps, stairways, and scaffolding.
Before undertaking any work at height, consider the operating environment, the task at hand, the people and tools required and the duration of the task.
Put simply, the employer must work to reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. The Working at Heights Guideline defines a fall hazard as “a situation where a person is exposed to a risk of a fall from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury.”
The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 specifies that “If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk of a fall…The regulation requires a PCBU* to minimise the risk of a fall by providing adequate protection against the fall risk.”
’Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’
Wherever possible work from the ground
Use a fall prevention device (scaffold, edge protection, temporary work platforms/ platform stepladders)
Use a work positioning system (travel restraint systems)
Fall arrest systems (safety harness, safety net, catch platform)
If all of the above are not practical use a ladder and assess all of the risks.
Where electricity exists always use a fiberglass Platform.
When choosing the correct ladder for the workplace, there are a number of criteria to consider:
Domestic or Industrial – Only an industrial rated ladder with a minimum load rating of 120kg can be used in the workplace.
Ladder height – The ladder height and maximum reach height varies depending on if you are using a stepladder or extension ladder. Before you purchase a ladder, its best to speak with staff, WH&S representatives or a height safety specialist.
Ladder construction – An aluminium ladder is lightweight and is appropriate for general trade and DIY use, whereas a fibreglass ladder is appropriate for use where electricity exists.
Finally, more and more worksites every day are insisting that tradespeople and contractors use a Platform Stepladder when undertaking work on site. It is a trend that is sure to continue meaning that the appropriate height safety product should form part of every contractors tool kit.