Hooped ladders and the use of personal fall-arrest systems
Health and Safety Executive - Safety alert
Cross Cutting Intervention Division - Product Safety Unit
10 July 2012 (revised 15 August 2012)
Any industry sector which uses hooped (aka caged) ladders.
The purpose of this safety notice is to remind dutyholders of the need to fully assess the risks from work at height involving fixed hooped ladders (also known as caged ladders).
The purpose of this safety notice is to alert dutyholders that hooped ladders (with or without a personal fall arrest system) may not be effective in safely arresting a fall without injury. As a result dutyholders are advised to review their risk assessments where these ladders are used.
HSE funded research
Research Report 657, titled an Investigation into the fall-arresting effectiveness of ladder safety hoops, when used in conjunction with various fall-arrest systems is published on the HSE website.
The report contains useful information for industry, stakeholders and dutyholders, and HSE is taking action on many of the report findings. It is, however, important to note that claims and conclusions presented in the report are not representative of HSE policy.
The report follows on from an earlier report (RR258) which looked at the fall-arrest effectiveness of ladder safety hoops.
The research was commissioned, following concerns regarding the interaction between fall arrest equipment and hooped ladders, to investigate the effectiveness of such combinations in providing worker safety from falls from height. The two reports conclude that:
- There is no evidence that hoops (also known as cages) on ladders provide complete fall arrest capability.
- Conversely if a fall arrest system is used there is a risk that the hoops can compromise its operation or effectiveness in preventing injury.
HSE does not recommend the blanket removal of hoops from ladders (which would probably increase overall risk), or to prohibit the use of personal fall arrest systems within hooped ladders. While the report concludes that hoops alone do not provide positive fall arrest capability, they can provide other safety benefits such as getting on and off the ladder that the report does not explore.
Dutyholders should be aware that the hoops of a ladder alone may not be effective in safely arresting a fall without injury. Dutyholders are therefore advised to review their risk assessments and consider if additional fall protection is required or alternative means of access supplied.
Where dutyholders choose to use fall arrest equipment inside a hooped ladder to arrest a fall they should be aware that hoops may interfere with the operation of some types of fall arrest equipment (for example inertia reel devices). Dutyholders should contact their manufacturer or supplier for advice on the performance of such equipment when used in a hooped ladder.
Users of fall arrest equipment inside a caged ladder should also be aware of the possibility of injury from striking the cage following a fall. The use of climbing helmets to reduce the risk of injury may need to be considered.
Relevant legal documents:
- Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Work at Height Regulations 2005
Further information relating to falls from height can be obtained from the HSE website
Please pass this information to a colleague who may be responsible for or use hooped ladders (aka caged ladders).