Safe Use of Stepladders

While stepladders should never automatically be your first choice, they are often a practical option for short, low-risk jobs. However, it is important to know when and how to use stepladders safely in the workplace.

When to use stepladders at work

To use a stepladder, you must be competent or, if you are being trained, you should be under the supervision of a competent person.

Stepladders should only be used for work at height when it is deemed that using equipment that offers a higher level of fall protection is not justified, the task will take no longer than 30 minutes and where the stepladders will be level and stable.

Where a handhold cannot be maintained, (e.g. to put a box on a shelf, install a smoke detector on a ceiling), your decision to use stepladders should take into account:

•  the height of the task

•  whether a handhold is still available to steady yourself before and after the task

•  whether it is light work

•  whether it avoids side loading

•  whether it avoids overreaching

•  whether the stepladder can be tied (e.g. when side-on working)

How to use stepladders safely

Pre-use visual checks should always be carried out to identify any obvious defects to make sure they are safe to use. These checks should be carried out by whoever is using the stepladders before use or after a change of some sort (e.g. stepladder has been dropped, etc).

The check should include:

•  the stiles 

•  the feet 

•  the stepladder platform 

•  the treads

•  any locking mechanism 

If any defects are identified, the stepladders should not be used.

When using stepladders to carry out a task:

•  Check all four stepladder feet are in contact with the ground and the steps are level

•  Only carry light materials and tools

•  Don’t overreach

•  Don’t stand and work on the top three steps unless there is a suitable handhold

•  Ensure any locking devices are engaged

•  Try to position the stepladder to face the work activity and not side on.

•  Try to avoid work that imposes a side loading, such as side-on drilling through solid materials (e.g. bricks or concrete)

•  Where side loadings cannot be avoided, you should prevent the steps from tipping over, (e.g. by tying the steps), or use a more suitable type of access equipment

•  Maintain three points of contact at the working position. This means two feet and one hand, or when both hands need to be free for a brief period, two feet and the body supported by the stepladder