If you are looking for a practical substitute for a stepladder, you need to consider the entire job, plan the work, and keep an open mind concerning the alternatives. You want to set up safety access equipment that is designed to reduce workplace mishaps. Where steps are banned or restricted for use, contractors and clients must plan ahead to agree on an equipment choice.
A Review of Access Safety Equipment
Planning ahead may not only include agreeing on a form of access that is safe for performing tasks. Where there is a frequent need for access equipment, permanent access ladders, steps, and handrails should be made available. For a given task, to play it safe, companies must consider if it is practical o use safer alternatives to steps.
Whilst steps are often used for short tasks, other situations demand access equipment in the form of podium steps or scaffolding. Low-level work platforms or ladders may also be used in some instances. Essentially, when you are working at a height, you should choose equipment that features a suitable surface, such as the access equipment featured on the Top Tower site. Reasonably practical equipment should be defined by the following features: a flat, comfortably sized working platform; guard rails or barriers; stability whilst being used; and an allowance for two-handed working.
Choosing Access Equipment
Steps do not typically meet the above criteria and, in many cases, the alternatives should be used. Whatever access equipment you choose, you still need to review the following information:
- The quality of the components and equipment should meet a recognised standard.
- A trained end user should work on the equipment.
- The equipment should provide a sufficient working area.
A working platform, for example, can feature towers, scaffold cradles, podium steps, gantries, or trestles. Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPS), such as scissor lifts, are often used for safety reasons on building sites as well. Working at height is a primary cause of accidents and the falls can lead to serious and sometimes fatal injury.
The Work at Height Regulations (WAH) covers work with all kinds of work platforms and access equipment, regardless of the duration of the work or the elevation involved. Whilst the WAH covers a broad range of access equipment, its goal is to reduce inappropriate uses of a stepladder, also referred to as steps.
Whilst steps are not banned outright by the WAH, construction employers should always consider practical alternatives. Steps can be used for tasks of short duration but usually are not recommended for work of a lengthy period. A series of tasks of a short duration can still be a short duration, provided a job is performed in a reasonably practical way. For instance, fitting several light bulbs is considered short-duration work. However, before the work is completed, you still have to consider whether there is a safer alternative.
Therefore, choosing an access platform instead of steps requires a knowledge of a job’s duration as well as the work involved at an access site. Even fundamentals, such as the state of a working floor, with its workplace obstructions, can influence whether or not equipment other than steps is better to use on the job.