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Dangers of caged ladders and egressing from such ladders

Supplier: Safemaster Height Safety Solutions By: SF
07 June, 2013

Caged ladders have always been considered as the preferred way of access to plant on roofs and high places for maintenance. This is simply to prevent the need of training personnel accessing such areas.

This could never be considered a serious approach to duty of care for personnel in these circumstances.

This new draft that may soon become a verified Standard, is out of date unless they remove Caged ladders altogether. Caged Ladders merely provide a false sense of security, and have never provided a safe means of access when the ladder exceeds 6m. If the committee looked at cage ladders seriously, it would be very evident they don't provide adequate safety when egressing nor when climbing.

Caged Ladders also require costly change of direction platforms, which are extremely obtrusive. The vertical lifeline ladder system should be the only systems  used on ladders and when they exceed 3 metres to provide safe egress between levels. All rung ladders whether at 70 degrees or vertical, should always have a lifeline or liferail when they exceed 3 metres.

Vertical Lifeline ladder systems are designed to prevent a free fall greater than 600mm, therefore providing the ultimate form of access to high places or between levels.

The Caged ladders are staggered for extra protection in the current standard, which clearly shows the committee is aware it is possible to fall, therefore they should be totally banned, and ruled not acceptable. All caged ladders currently in use should be upgraded with a lifeline.

The Draft suggests side-mounted “midway” landing platforms are no longer acceptable. This is simply stupid and should be reviewed, and it should be made clear they are only acceptable when a lifeline is fitted to the ladder.

Fall protection from ladders is recognized where it isn’t practical to have staggered ladders and a landing platform where particularly common when ladders need to be installed to significant heights of, say, 6 to 30m in wind turbines, telecommunication towers and in very deep confined pits.. This is absurd as the risk in these circumstances is greatly reduced by vertical lifelines.

It should always be the responsibility of a supervisor, in every circumstance whether for construction or maintenance, to control the access and ensure the user has adequate competencies.

The vertical lifeline ladder systems generally prevent the need for rescue, and serious injury. Although a rescue plan is required, it is unlikely it would be utilized.

In contrast where a Caged Ladder is used it could never be considered any personnel should be left to work alone. Supervisors in the facilities or maintenance environment on operational buildings (such as air-conditioning mechanics and roofing plumbers) have always considered Caged Ladders safe. They should NOT consider them to be safe or allow them to work alone, as relying on self-rescue is not permitted under the newly released COP for Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces.

Any company in the height safety field recommending caged ladders and walkways with handrails as a complete package , and implying it reduces the cost of administration, induction, supervision and recertification is providing is misleading. Egress from a caged ladder or from and portable ladder to a roof or platform, “CAN NOT” be done safely with out some form of restraint.

These situations are clearly highlighted in the codes for egress from an EWP, and there is always a risk of falling at the top of a caged ladder, as you are standing with a fall zone (opening) greater than legislation allows. Likewise the draft clarifies that an open hatch is a fall hazard, therefore prescribes perimeter protection to hatches. It also deals with the ergonomic and safety issues for access and egress.

Be Safety Wise, aside from meeting your obligations, it is good business to install the higher level controls like guardrails and walkways wherever possible rather than relying on fall prevention and fall arrest systems. Simple, low maintenance systems like guardrails are less costly over their life times, but never use systems that merely provide a false sense of security. Always train your staff  to use any system, although some situations may require less training to use and therefore provide  a broader spectrum of workers to do the job safely, never take these situations out of perspective.

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