Guidance on the Safe Use of Ladders

3 mins

Posted on 14 Apr 2015

The Health and Safety Executive has provided guidelines on the safe use of ladders.

Incidents resulting from falls from ladders can vary from a bruise or minor injury to death depending on a number of factors including the height of the ladder and the position of the person during the fall.

The HSE has issued the following dos and don’ts: 


  • as much work as possible from the ground
  • ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height
  • ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly
  • take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
  • provide protection from falling objects
  • consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures


  • use ladders or stepladders for strenuous or heavy tasks, only use them for light work of short duration (a maximum of 30 minutes at a time)
  • overload ladders – consider the equipment or materials workers are carrying before working at height
  • overreach on ladders or stepladders
  • rest a ladder against weak upper surfaces, eg glazing or plastic gutters
  • let anyone who is not competent (who doesn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job) work at height

An employer has a legal duty to ensure that all significant risks are assessed and controls used to minimise the risk to the user. 

Employers should carry out a risk assessment reviewing the following:

  • the length of time the ladder is used
  • the task the ladder will be used for
  • where the ladder is used
  • whether the ladder is safe to use and in good condition 
  • the suitability of the ground on which the ladder is positioned
  • the awareness of and training on the risks for the person using the ladder
  • whether other work at height equipment is more suitable such as mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), tower scaffolds etc
  • the personal protective equipment to be used, such as safety shoes, gloves, high visibility vests or hard hat depending on the task being done and where the task is carried out
  • the risk to other persons in the vicinity of the task being undertaken
  • the type of ladder used and its suitability for the task as the ladder must be fit for purpose.

Ladders are very important pieces of work equipment and it would be difficult to find an alternative for short duration work. However, the user of the ladder can minimise the risk of incidents by following the HSE guidelines and using best practice.

The HSE guidelines can be accessed here

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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