Lending ladders and equipment: should you take the risk?

By Jason Godfrey, Safesite General Manager

Lending equipment such as ladders is a touchy subject for many contractors, employers and workers. The answer is, yes, you can lend your ladder – and similar tools – out to others.

Before you do, however, you should put serious consideration into the risks you’re taking by doing so.

An example

Let’s look at an example: a contractor has arrived on site without a ladder. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, as the employer, you are responsible for their safety when they are working on your site.

Without the ladder, you have to stop the job and delay the work whilst the contractors buy or hire one. This might also cause problems between your company and the contractors in question which can be bad for business.

However, one of the contractors asks whether they could just use one of the ladders you have on site to save the trouble. It makes sense, right?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 means it is your responsibility to ensure they work safely on your site, but it is the contractor’s employer’s responsibility to provide them with the correct equipment.

By offering them your own equipment you have taken away their employer’s opportunity to ensure that the equipment is suitable for the job, is in a safe condition, and that the workers are trained to use it. In other words, you take these responsibilities on yourself.

Worst case scenario

A good example of the risks you take on by lending equipment, both to contractors and more generally, is the 2010 case of a contractor who fractured his skull and sustained nerve damage after falling from a ladder and between the decks of a client’s boat.

The owner of the boat, having provided the unsuitable and unsafe ladder from which the contractor fell, was prosecuted for the injury.

The solution

Of course, prevention is the best solution, and in an ideal world a competent contractor would not put you in the position above; or you would have ample time to delay the work so correct equipment could be procured.

If you do find yourself in the position of having to lend ladders, equipment, or tools, and there is absolutely no way you can resolve the situation some other way, there are a few things you can do to ensure there aren’t any problems.

> Make sure you are confident that the ladder you’re going to lend is in top condition and is suitable for the task at hand. Keep a ladder checklist or other record showing that the ladder has been properly inspected and certified by a professional.

> Confirm with the responsible person at the contracted business, such as the site manager or supervisor, that it is OK for the lending of the ladder to take place.

> Ensure the contractor themselves inspect the ladder, and have them confirm in writing that they have done so. This could be achieved by having them co-sign the ladder checklist from the inspection you carried out.

Though there are always some risks when it comes to lending equipment or tools, they can be mostly mitigated by meeting your obligations and ensuring all necessary precautions have been taken.

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