Buying the Right Ladders
It’s an old adage but you really do get what you pay for. Anyone buying a ladder designed for DIY’ers because it is cheaper will probably find that it won’t last the course if used regularly.
Why? Because whoever manufactured it had to meet certain guidelines that did not include either regular use or any user weight of over 95kg – and that’s total weight including tools, equipment and materials.
So, if the person using the ladder (plus everything they are carrying) is over 14st 13lbs, and using their ladder more than occasionally, they are using the wrong ladder.
Not bothered? Can’t see that it makes any difference? Well it really does, because the classifications relate to their safe working load. And of course safety should be paramount to any company buying ladders for its personnel or indeed for personal use. Use a ladder outside of the parameters for which it has been designed and built and you are dicing with death – possibly even literally.
BS 2037 Class 1 – Industrial / Heavy Duty
Heavy duty, high frequency use and onerous conditions of use, carriage and storage. The maximum weight of user and tools i.e. the duty rating, is 130kg, that’s around 20st 6lbs.
BS/EN 131 (previously Class 2) – Light Trade / DIY
Low frequency use and less onerous conditions of use, carriage and storage. The duty rating being 115kg, that’s 18st.
BS 2037 Class 3 – Domestic / DIY
Occasional, light use only with a maximum duty rating of 95kg which is just 14st 13lbs.
EN 14183 – Domestic / Light Commercial - Step Stools
Light use only with a maximum duty rating of 150kg which is just 23st 6lbs.
EN 14975 - Heavy Duty Loft Ladders
Occasional, light use only with a maximum duty rating of 150kg which is just 23st 6lbs.
Duty Rating vs Static Load
Duty rating is the amount in weight of the person climbing the ladder. Static load is the weight with tools and is a safety margin.
Your Weight and Your Ladders
Over the last fifteen years the number of overweight men (many more men than women use ladders) has increased by15 per cent in the UK. Forty-five per cent of men are now overweight. Of course, you have to be relatively fit to work in construction and manufacturing (which are two of the industrial sectors with the highest incidence of ladder accidents), but we hazard a guess that as the average male now weighs around 78 kg (12st 4lb) – and it’s going up - everyone will know someone who – once tools and materials are added - should not be at work using a domestic, Class 3 ladder.
And things can get quite serious.
If an HSE Inspector were to find a Class 3 ladder in a situation where the risk assessment did not justify its use, they would issue an Improvement Notice, which would require the duty holder to replace the ladder with a more suitable product. If the Inspector felt that workers were being put a risk of injury because the wrong equipment was being used, they would consider prosecution - even if no accident had occurred.
So if you buy a Class 3 ladder and overload it, even if you don’t fall off it, it will not last long and you will have to buy a new one anyway. It seems a bit of a false economy to us, you might as well buy the right ladder in the first place, it will last years and potentially save you untold problems.
So what is the sensible alternative?
The difference between buying cheap and wrong or buying right is not that great and could make all the difference to your life or your member of staff’s. If you are a painter and decorator or a builder, then we encourage you in particular to listen up – you work in the two professions where most ladder injuries occur.*
Yes there is an increase in price, but you’d expect that – not only are you getting a ladder that is designed to do so much more and last much longer but you are actually getting more ladder for your money. Check out the heights and weight, they are not just heavier duty, they are bigger!
*For further information see the HSE research undertaken by Loughborough University (http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr205.pdf)