Safe Access & Egress - The Importance of Ladder Inspections
Access and egress from roof areas is one of the biggest risks in relation to falls from height.
Whether this is a temporary or fixed ladder, they both have the same hazard – a fall from height.
Safe access to roof areas are often overlooked, with the concentration being focused on roof areas themselves and the planned maintenance activities required, i.e. a main roof with air conditioning equipment on.
All ladders should have an inspection regime in place to ensure they are safe and fit for purpose. Considerations should always be given as to why access is required, that the risks are suitably assessed and how the operative remains safe once on the roof itself. In an ideal situation, collective protection would be in place, however this is not always the case and this is where the need for safety systems comes in. The operative should be able to connect to a suitable anchor point prior to accessing and egressing from the roof area.
In regards to temporary ladders, the regulations state that the equipment should be:
- Fit for purpose, i.e. correct height (having assessed other methods are not suitable or practical)
- Inspected by an independent third party and prior to use by a competent person
- Suitably secured, i.e. ladder ties to avoid the ladder from slipping
In regards to fixed ladders it is much the same:
- Is it correct and fit for purpose? (many can be incorrectly positioned in relation to the hatch itself)
- Has it been inspected by an independent third party and prior to use by a competent person?
Although hoop ladders are deemed as acceptable within the industry, there are many arguments to say these are not suitable and that vertical fall arrest systems should be installed instead.
Vertical fall arrest systems can be retro fitted to most ladders and provide a greater level of protection to the operative. Many duty holders are taking notice and understand the need to consider access equipment as part of their compliance checks.
If the ladder is deemed unsafe or not fit for purpose, this could lead to costly downtime as maintenance on the roof cannot be carried out and could lead to further costs and complications.
For more information please see the attached Ladder Guide by the HSE: