Are Ladders Banned?

When the new WAH regulations came into force in April 2005 rumours began to spread of a ladder ban. Is that the case?

The short answer is NO. However, ladder use should be justified.

When can ladders be used?

The HSE’s key message is that ladders should only be used for low-risk, short duration work.

Ladders can be used if after assessing the risks the use of more suitable work equipment is not justified because of the low risk and short duration.

Short duration is taken to be between 15 and 30 minutes depending upon the task.

Ladders can also be used for low risk work where there are features on the site that mean a ladder must be used.

These following comments were made by the HSE during the Windex 2006 Seminars.

  • The Health and Safety Executive recognises that it is unrealistic to expect every window cleaner to adopt new working practices overnight and also accepts that the industry accident record is low and is anticipating a period of transition to allow the industry to settle into the adoption of any new working methods needed to comply with the new regulations.
  • During this period the HSE will expect all window cleaners to consider the safety benefits of using alternatives to ladders and plan to change their work practices where possible.
  • The HSE will advise shortly as to the length of the transitional period.
  • The following examples illustrate situations where, provided a proper risk assessment has been done and equipment is properly used, ladder use may be appropriate during the transitional period.

Situations where ladders may be suitable:

  • On ground floor windows both internally and externally using ‘A’ frame ladders.
  • Internal of high windows in schools, shopping malls, atriums etc.
  • Up to and including 1st floor using ladders no more than 6 metres on domestic and small commercial properties.
  • Removal of heavily impacted soilage. Eg. Builders Cleans
  • To access windows above flat roofs.
  • Where the number of windows to be cleaned at height is very small relative to the total, making use of more expensive access or cleaning methods unreasonable
    (eg. Less than 6 1st floor) on an isolated property.
  • On city centre red routes and in other areas where you can’t get the water fed pole van near to the building to be cleaned and trailing hoses would cause a hazard.
  • On properties where the use of a trolley system is not suitable because of site conditions (i.e steps or other physical obstructions)
  • On isolated domestic and small commercial premises. (i.e in rural locations where you may have, say only one two houses on a street/housing estate.
  • On domestic and small commercial premises where ladders are required to access above a flat roof and there is a limited number of 1st floor windows which are not above a roof.

If you do decide that the use of a ladder is the most suitable means of access then you should conduct a further risk assessment into the actual use of the ladder and ensure that you use it safely.

Further Reading:

Health and Safety information links
Learn about Risk Assessments
Learn about Method Statements and other Health and Safety Documentation

Learn more about running a window cleaning business with our list of window cleaning articles