Paul Bruton, WernerCo’s Product Development Director, assesses the shortcomings with the current standards for roof ladders and the impact of the introduction of a new British Standard.
Roofers account for nearly 24 per cent of all work at height fatalities within the construction industry according to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It will also come as no surprise that falls from height in general are the biggest cause of worker deaths across the entire construction industry.
When working at height there could be substantial risks to workers especially if health and safety practices aren’t taken. It remains one of the only major ladder categories where no British standard exists but luckily this is going to change following an agreement by the British Standards Institution (BSI), which will bring about the development of an industry standard.
Current HSE guidelines on roof ladders state that they must be designed for the purpose, of good construction, properly supported, and, if used on a sloping roof, they must be securely fixed by means of a ridge hook placed over the ridge bearing on the opposite roof.
It also states that ladders should be used in addition to eaves-level edge protection and gutters should not be used to support any ladder.
Work at Height regulations state that special measures must be taken (the use of an access platform or scaffolding) where it is not possible to maintain a constant handhold on a ladder; a stipulation that led to an increase in the use of personal fall protection equipment (PPE) when using roof ladders.
This addition of extra support for workers highlights the concerns with current roof ladder guidance and as such the new BSI guidance, when introduced, will seek to raise the standards and the design of roof ladders to help ensure falls from height are minimised.
When purchasing a suitable roof ladder there are a number of factors to consider; are they designed for the purpose, are they of good construction, are they properly supported and securely fixed with ridge hooks, and are they of suitable tread depth and simple to use?
Werner offers the complete solution in the form of its new 771 Series Roof Ladder, which boasts a heavy-duty roof hook allowing for a superior fit across the roof apex and a large rubber sleeved end bar to enhance safety and grip. The ladder’s 150kg load capacity also makes it a practical choice for the trade.
The wheels on the model allow for easy manoeuvrability, and the large wheel diameter means less force is required for correct positioning. The softer rubber wheels also increase grip when rolling the ladder up the roof.
For added support when working at height, rubber sleeved support bars are a useful feature to look for as they provide protection for the roof or tiles by ensuring that weight is distributed evenly across the ladder; this will help reduce the risk of material damage when at work.
It’s important to note that roof ladders should always be used in addition to eaves-level edge protection and in no circumstances should gutters ever be used to support a ladder.
There is understandably some confusion relating to when a roof ladder should be used and when alternative access equipment is more suitable. For the majority of work on a flat roof, temporary edge protection will be required; for both the roof edge and any openings in it.
A surprising number of accidents happen when accessing a roof, so a safe means of access is vital. Depending on the height of the roof an extension ladder maybe the best solution.
Youngman’s Trade 400 Extension Ladder offers extra-large, slip-resistant rubber feet and extra-rigid box-section alloy stiles. The ladder’s push-up operation with wall wheels makes ladder extension simple, and the 30mm-deep square rungs offer both strength and comfort.
When using an extension ladder, always ensure that it is positioned at the correct 75 degree angle and that it is correctly tied back. If it’s impossible to secure the ladder by tying it, ask a colleague to ‘foot’ the ladder by standing at the bottom with one foot on the bottom rung while gripping the stiles with both hands.
Alternatively, if you’re working on a roof over a longer period of time a mobile access platform will often be the best solution. BoSS’ Ladderspan Mobile Aluminium Tower is a perfect example of this type of access tower, designed to be used across a range of building and construction environments.
Ideal for maintenance and installation work, or for short-term access requirements, this highly versatile tower provides a strong working platform for a variety of height requirements.
The new standard will take these factors into consideration and it is hoped that a wider European Standard will be developed once the BSI comes into force.
Once implemented, the new standard will impact the whole industry, from ladder manufacturers including WernerCo, to health and safety professionals, product testing organisations, training bodies, trading standards officers and health and safety regulators.
For further information on WernerCo click here.