How to inspect fixed ladders


By Steve Kilpin, Recertification Manager, Safesite Limited

Last week I shared a couple of videos we had taken on site when inspecting some fixed ladders.  This has prompted many of you to ask us what we look for when inspecting and recertifying a fixed ladder. 

The main objective of the inspection and recertification is to ensure that the fixed ladder is installed correctly and safe to use, to do this we follow a simple but effective process of assessing the Risk Rating and Compliance Criteria in order to produce a ladder data sheet.

Risk Ratings

Recommendations are then made based on the risk level estimations using a control plan which looks at the Risk Level and Tolerability: Action Guidance. 

For example if the Risk Level is very low the Action Guidance may be that it is “considered acceptable, existing controls should be maintained but the ladder could be upgraded when other works are done.”  However if the Risk Level is very high it would be noted there is a “substantial and unacceptable risk that a fall could occur, remedial works are very likely to be required and the recommended action is within 6 weeks.”  In addition, “immediate control measures should be put in place until the risk has been reduced and a full risk assessment of all work activities involving the equipment should be undertaken.”

Risk Level Matrix

Compliance Criteria

When we carry out inspections and recertification of fixed ladders, we follow the requirements of relevant regulations and standards, including the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, ACOP and BS4211, for example:

  • Fixed ladders should not be used where it would be practical to install a conventional staircase
  • The ladder should be of sound construction, properly maintained and securely fixed
  • Assembly should be sufficiently rigid and stable to ensure safety of the user under normal conditions
  • Handrails should extend at least 1100mm above landing
  • Stiles should extend to the height of guarding
  • The ladder should not exceed 6m without an intermediate landing
  • Hoops should be fixed if the ladder exceeds 2.5m
  • Fall protection, preferably passive such as cages, should be provided if there is a risk of falling more than 2m
  • Hoops should be a maximum of 900mm apart
  • Hoops should not exceed 1500mm apart with uprights not more than 300mm apart
  • The width between the strings should be between 300mm (400mm preferred) and 600mm
  • Handrails should open out to between 600mm and 700mm above the landing
  • Rungs must withstand 1.5kN and have a diameter of 20-35mm
  • The top rung should be level with the platform
  • Rise between rungs should be 225mm to 300mm
  • A minimum of 200mm clear space should be behind each rung
  • Clear space on the user side should be 600mm

Ladder Data Sheet

Once we've carried out the Risk Rating and Compliance Criteria we are then in a position to produce a data sheet for the ladder, outlining its compliance, or non-compliance, and recommend any remedial works that need to be carried out. 

A typical ladder data sheet would look something like this:

Example ladder data sheet



The above is merely an overview of how we carry out recertification of fixed ladders and does not go into details of the full processes.  As with any type of work, inspection and recertification of fixed ladders should only be carried out by those who are competent to do so and is not something that can be carried out by any worker.  Only a competent person or company will be able to assess the risks and carry out the work safely and in accordance with the work at height hierarchy.

Sign Up To Our Newsletter