Are you compliant with the new EU ladder safety standards?

The Health and Safety Executive’s report: Health and Safety Executive: Kinds of Accident in Great Britain, November 2017 (www.hse. gov.uk/statistics/causinj/kinds-ofaccident.pdf) highlights that the most common cause of a fatal workplace accident is a fall from a height, as 28 per cent of these accidents are as a result of trying to complete high rise tasks. For those working in the construction industry, this is a very tangible risk, as many find themselves up ladders and platforms to complete their work.

It is evident that this is a prevalent problem in industries across the world, and, in an attempt to make working at height safer for all those involved, the European Committee for Standardisation has published the standards EN 131-1 and 2. The purpose of this regulation is to ensure that ladders meet a stringent criterion for stability and load bearing capacity.

What do the regulations mean?
In the context of the standards 131-1 and 2, all leaning ladders that are three metres or longer have to be equipped with a stabiliser bar to ensure stability.

The new standards include a ‘Professional’ category that replaces BS 2037 Class 1, the current standard for industrial and heavy-duty ladders. Along with stricter test requirements in terms of strength and slip-resistance, EN 131-2 also sets out additional regulations for mechanical durability tests and torsion tests.

Will I have to replace existing equipment?
EN 131 does not expressly prohibit the continued use of ladders that are already in use. However, as ladders are ubiquitous within industrial and trade skills, it is essential that they are reviewed regularly to ensure they meet safety standards. Commercial users in the UK and Europe are merely asked to adhere to the respective workplace regulations. Existing ladders do not need to be replaced, but any new ladders that are purchased must be compliant with the new regulation.

It’s possible that ladders built with ‘state-of-the-art’ materials can continue to be used. In order to identify compliant models, and consequently help with financial planning, companies should ask their safety officer to perform a risk assessment as soon as possible. The officer must decide whether existing ladders can continue to be used or should be replaced to comply with the new standard.

Ultimately, EN 131-1 and 2 are intended to improve safety, so no compromises should be made when people’s lives are at stake. Companies should always prioritise a safer working environment for staff. A small investment now in the latest safety standards may save far greater costs long-term should an accident happen.

In order to understand how these regulations might affect your construction business, ZARGES has put together four tips on how to assess your needs:
1. Frequently check your ladders: as this equipment will endure a lot of wear throughout their working life, it is recommended that ladders are assessed before they are used and are subject to regular checks
2. Make sure the inspector has the necessary knowledge and qualifications: an inspection can only be classed as legal if it is performed by a trained employee or safety officer
3. Retrofitting is possible: you can upgrade existing access systems to comply with EN131-1, for instance by adding a stabiliser bar to a leaning ladder
4. Safety is always a priority: alongside the regular inspections, construction companies should also keep a close eye on the safety of their workers. There is a wealth of advice available to construction managers on how to ensure ladders and platforms are being used in a safe manner on site.

ZARGES GmbH, based in Weilheim in Upper Bavaria, is a global player with a workforce of approximately 800 and 3 production sites in Europe. Innovative technologies and established experience with high-quality aluminium make ZARGES a leading company in the three major business sectors Access Packaging, Transportation, Storage – Special Construction. ZARGES products combine the multiple benefits of the light metal material aluminium such as high stability with low weight, corrosion resistance and flexibility of use. ZARGES has the right product for every need and can also offer customised solutions. Regardless of whether they are from the service, retail, skilled trades or business sector or are private individuals: our customers value ZARGES as a reliable partner and benefit from the quality, expertise and comprehensive service that they enjoy for many years after purchasing ZARGES products.
For more information, please see www.zarges.com/uk