Ladder Safety at Rhodes University

In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (1993), all workplaces must ensure that portable ladders are used safely and maintained on a regular basis. 

Basic Ladder Safety Training

All staff who work with ladders must be properly informed and trained in the correct use of ladders.

Line Managers are responsible for ensuring that their staff receive this training. You may download and use the Basic Ladder Safety Training Materials provided by the Safety, Health & Environmental Office:

The SHE Office also organises a 2-hour Basic Ladder Safety training session for Rhodes University staff (not for the general public). On completion, participants receive a Certificate of AttendanceCourse dates.

Working at Heights

Nobody is permitted to work in an elevated position unless the work is done safely from a ladder or scaffolding. No height is specified. Anything above ground level is a height or elevated position

General Safety Regulations for Workplaces (1987) - 6. Work in Elevated Positions

"No employer shall require or permit any person to work in an elevated position, and no person shall work in an elevated position, unless such work is performed safely from a ladder or scaffolding, or from a position where such person has been made as safe as if he were working from scaffolding."

Construction Regulations (2014) - 10. Fall Protection

"2. A fall protection plan ... must include -

a) a risk assessment of all work carried out from a fall risk position and the procedures and methods used to address all the risks identified per location;
b) the processes for the evaluation of the employees' medical fitness necessary to work at a fall risk position and the records thereof;
c) a programme for the training of employees working from a fall risk position and the records thereof;
d) the procedure addressing the inspection, testing and maintenance of all fall protection equipment; and
e) a rescue plan detailing the necessary procedure, personnel and suitable equipment required to affect a rescue of a person in the event of a fall incident to ensure that the rescue procedure is implemented immediately following the incident."

View: General Safety Regulations for Workplaces (1987)- 13A. Ladders

Maintenance and Use of Ladders

The General Safety Regulations for Workplaces, 13(a) Ladders (OHS Act (1993), determines how ladders should be used and maintained:

  • LADDER Safety Checklist - regular ladder safety inspections are compulsory.

  • General tips on ladder safety - as per OHS Act General Safety Regulations 13A. Ladders:

    • If a ladder has any defects it should be taken out of service and repaired or replaced.
    • Ladder should be varnished, not painted (this conceals defects).
    • Ladder should be kept clean (dirt hides defects & oil/grease causes slipping).
    • Ladder should be equipped with safety feet.
    • Ladder should be stored either upright or in a horizontal position - suspended above the ground on several wall brackets.
    • Ladder should not be exposed to damp conditions or excessive heat (to avoid warping).
    • Ladder should never be left lying on the ground (may cause tripping or be run over by a vehicle).
    • The distance of a ladder's feet from the object against which it is leaning should be a quarter of its own length.
    • Ladder should not be placed on top of a box, table, truck or other moveable base.
    • Wherever possible, the ladder should extend 1 metre above its support.
    • Tools or equipment used on ladder should be hauled up by rope.
    • Avoid placing tools or materials on ladder steps or platform (they may fall off).
    • Before placing a ladder in front of a doorway, take proper precautions (warning sign, safety barrier).
    • Ladder should be left in a secure position (never where it may fall).
    • Only one person should be on the ladder at a time.
    • When climbing up or down a ladder, use both hands and face the ladder at all times.
    • When in use, a ladder should either be held by another person or tied securely at the top.
    • Ladder should never be used as a horizontal runway or scaffolding.
    • Stepladder should only be used when all 4 legs are on a solid, level surface.
    • Never bring a ladder into contact with electricity.
    • Never stand on the top rung or step of any ladder.
    • All new employees should be given instructions on the proper use and care of ladders.

More Info:

General Safety Regulations for Workplaces (1987)- 13A. Ladders

An extract from the Occupational Health and Safety Act (1993), retrieved November 18, 2013, from

1) An employee shall ensure that every ladder is constructed of sound material and is suitable for the purpose for which it is used, and -
a) is fitted with non-skid devices at the bottom ends and hooks or similar devices at the upper ends of the stiles which shall ensure the stability of the ladder during normal use; or
b) is so lashed, held or secured whilst being used as to ensure the stability of the ladder under all conditions and at all times.

2) No employer shall use a ladder, or permit it to be used, if it -
i) has rungs fastened to the stiles only by means of nails, screws, spikes or in like manner; or
ii) has rungs which have not been properly let into the stiles: Provided that in the case of welded ladder or ladders of which the rungs are bolted or riveted to the stiles, the rungs need not be let into the sides; or
b) has damaged stiles, or damaged or missing rungs.

3) No employer may permit that -
a) a ladder which is required to be leaned against an object for support be used which is longer than 9 m; and
b) except with the approval of an inspector, the reach of a ladder be extended by fastening together two or more ladders: Provided that the provisions of this subregulation shall not apply to extension of free-standing ladders.

4) In the case of wooden ladders the employer shall ensure that -
a) the ladders are constructed of straight grained wood, free from defects, and with the grain running in the length of the stiles and rungs; and
b) the ladders are not painted or covered in any manner, unless it has been established that there are no cracks or other inherent weaknesses: Provided that ladders may be treated with oil or covered with clear varnish or wood preservative.

5) When work is done from a ladder, the employer shall -
a) take special precautionary measures to prevent articles from falling off; and
b) provide suitable sheaths or receptacles in which hand tools shall be kept when not being used.

6) An employer shall ensure that a fixed ladder which exceeds 5 m in length and is attached to a vertical structure with an inclination to the horizontal level of 75 or more -
a) has its rungs at least 150 mm away from the structure to which the ladder is attached; and
b) is provided with a cage which -
i) extends from a point not exceeding 2.5 m from the lower level to a height of at least 900 mm above the top level served by the ladder; and
ii) shall afford firm support along its whole length for the back of the person climbing the ladder, and for which purpose no part of the cage shall be more than 700 mm away from the level of the rungs:
Provided that the foregoing provisions of paragraph (b) shall nor apply if platforms, which are spaced not more than 8 m apart and suitable for persons to rest on, are provided.

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Last Modified: Mon, 18 Jun 2018 11:20:49 SAST