Time to step up – are you compliant with the new ladder safety standards?

According to the Health and Safety Executive1 (HSE), approximately 609,000 cases of reportable work-related accidents occur in the UK each year. Thankfully, fatal injuries at work are infrequent, but the most common cause is falling from height (28%). These accidents often involve ladders.



o address this problem, the European Committee for Standardisation has published the standards EN 131-1 and 2 with the intention of reducing ladder-related incidents. These standards establish new design and testing requirements to ensure ladders meet stringent criteria for stability and load-bearing capacity. The regulations came into force on 1st January 2018 in the UK and throughout Europe and will affect companies of all sizes and across a variety of industries.

What do the regulations mean?

Under EN 131-1 and 2, all leaning ladders that are 3m or longer will have to be equipped with a stabiliser bar.

The new standards include a ‘Professional’ category that will replace BS 2037 Class 1, the current standard for industrial and heavy-duty ladders. Along with stricter test requirements regarding 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?

Under EN 131, existing ladders do not need to be replaced. However, as ladders are ubiquitous within industrial and trade skills, it is essential that they are regularly reviewed to ensure they meet current safety standards. Commercial users in the UK and Europe are merely asked to adhere to the respective workplace regulations.

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 practically possible.

Ultimately, EN 131-1 and 2 are intended to improve safety. Companies should always prioritise a safe working environment for staff. A small investment now may save far greater costs long-term should an accident happen. ZARGES has put together the following tips to help users assess what they need:

Regularly inspect ladders: It is recommended that ladders are subject to a pre-use check, as well as more detailed inspection at least once every three months.

Take note of the inspector’s qualification: An inspection is considered legally compliant only when it is performed by a certified in-house safety officer or a trained employee of a specialist company.

Perform retrofitting: Access systems can be retrofitted to comply with regulations. For example, a stabiliser bar can be added to a leaning ladder in accordance with EN 131-1.

Safety first: In addition to annual inspections, companies should always keep an eye on the safety of their ladders and access systems. Specialist companies and manufacturers, such as ZARGES, offer relevant advice, instructions and information to ensure ladders are being used safely in the work environment.

1Health and Safety Executive: Kinds of Accident in Great Britain, November 2017. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/kinds-of-accident.pdf

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