There have been suggestions in the press today that HSE has banned the use of stepladders for firefighters when fitting smoke alarms. Let me be clear - this is untrue - HSE has NOT banned firefighters from using stepladders to fit smoke alarms. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) and the Fire Brigades Union approached HSE and asked to discuss the use of stepladders for this work. Humberside FRS wanted to clarify their policy as they had been unable to resolve the issue over a three year period. HSE agreed that the issue needed to be resolved and soon.
In many cases stepladders will be the appropriate tool for the job. It would depend on the type of step ladder and the way they are being used. Inappropriate use of ladders as work platforms is a major cause of serious injury and employers must think about when they should be used and when something else is needed.
HSE recognises the importance of the FRS work to protect the public by fitting smoke alarms and wants to see sensible and practical systems of work that will help and not hinder this task.
Geoffrey Podger Chief Executive Health and Safety Executive Rose Court 2 Southwark Bridge London SE1 9HS