Ladder Safety and Working at Height

Using a ladder properly for any work requires training and safety awareness. The experts from TB Davies explain

• What are the main types of ladders for domestic and commercial use?

The most popular types of ladders around the home include the following:

Step Stools. They are small, lightweight, and foldable for easy storage, so they are handy for reaching lower heights, such as high cabinets and shelves. They are most popular in painted steel, and we recommend you look out for one manufactured to the British Standard, BS EN14183.

Platform Step ladders in aluminium are available at different heights. They are ideal for reaching moderate heights for tasks like changing light bulbs, painting, or accessing shelves.

Extension ladders in aluminium are available in two and three-section varieties that slide, allowing you to adjust the ladder’s length as needed. Extension ladders are commonly used for cleaning windows, reaching gutters or roofs. We recommend you choose a ‘D’ shape rung that is more comfortable and consider investing in a stand-off bracket to hold you away from the work, making things a lot safer, especially when working on gutters. 

Telescopic ladders are convenient due to their compact and portable design. They can be extended or retracted to various heights, making them easy to store and transport. Telescopic ladders are popular for access to lofts, a flat roof, or general household maintenance. Many poor-quality models are available, especially from online marketplaces, so ensure you buy them from a  reputable outlet and that they are manufactured to the British Standard BS EN131-6.

Finally, Loft ladders are specifically designed for accessing lofts or attics. They are usually installed permanently and fold or slide down from the ceiling. Loft ladders are available as folding wooden ladders, complete with frame and insulated trap door or sliding aluminium varieties that are generally easier to fit.

The commercial use of ladders is far more complex, and companies are bound by the Work at Height Regulations. Therefore the selection of which type of ladder begins with a risk assessment that considers everything from training to the work environment where ladders will be used. Work environments vary, ranging from construction sites to factories and street scenes to office buildings. Hence, the choice of industrial ladders is comprehensive. 

• What are the advantages of different types of material in ladder construction?

Aluminum is the most popular material for ladders and steps in the UK. It is lightweight, durable and corrosion-resistant, making them suitable for indoor and outdoor applications. It is estimated that 75% of aluminium is still in use today as it can be recycled endlessly without compromising its unique properties or quality.

Fibreglass steps and, to a lesser degree, extension ladders are growing in popularity. Fibreglass is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio, making themsturdy and durable. The material is also non-conductive, providing increased safety when working near electricity. The most popular colour is yellow and hi-viz green, prevalent in commercial environments as the green colour can enhance safety by increasing visibility for both users and those around them.

Steel ladders are generally available in single lengths and are prevalent in scaffolding. The material is heavy but extremely tough and durable.

Wooden ladders and steps are harder to find nowadays and generally a more expensive option. Wooden ladders have a classic look and can be aesthetically pleasing in specific settings. Like fibreglass, they are a natural insulator but can be heavier, and one advantage is they are easier to repair. They can be durable and reliable if properly maintained.

• Which type is used for different types of work?

Many ladders can be used across different applications such as decorating, masonry, plumbing and carpentry. However, some products are designed for specific applications, such as Roof Ladders suitable for simple tasks such as replacing a roof tile and Conservatory Ladders for cleaning notoriously difficult conservatory roofs. You can also get ladders such as the Velocity from Little Giant that can help work on stairs and combination ladders to access lights in a hall.

• Why is it important for a workforce to use the correct ladder type?

By using the correct ladder type, businesses can mitigate the risks associated with working at height, prevent accidents, protect worker safety, and promote a culture of safety in the workforce. It is essential to provide appropriate training, conduct regular inspections, and ensure workers can access the right ladder type for their tasks.

A good risk assessment is too comprehensive to detail here, but you should consider your primary tasks with the ladder. The job will be short enough in duration, generally accepted as less than half an hour. The ladder will allow the user to safely reach the working area without overreaching. When looking at the work environment, pay close attention to the stability of the ground or floor, the presence of obstacles or obstructions, and the space available for ladder setup.

• How do I check a ladder for safety before use?

The primary visual inspection of an aluminium or fibreglass ladder should look for damaged or worn ladder feet; twisted, bent or dented stiles; cracked, worn, bent or loose rungs; damaged welded joints and loose rivets or damaged stays. We also suggest checking the ladder is stable on a level surface and verifying that it can support you and your tools safely. Finally, follow the instructions and load capacity information on the safety labels of any EN131 ladder.

• What steps should I take to ensure a work area is suitable for using a ladder?

Here are some key considerations to evaluate the surface where the ladder will be placed.

The surface should be stable and capable of supporting the weight of the ladder and the person using it. Avoid using ladders on surfaces that are prone to shifting or sinking, such as loose gravel or uneven flooring.

The surface should be level to ensure proper ladder stability. A sloping or uneven surface can cause the ladder to lean or wobble, increasing the risk of accidents. If the ground is uneven, consider using a ladder with adjustable legs or opt for ladder accessories like leg levellers to compensate for the unevenness. The Hyperlite or All-Terrain models from Little Giant come with an integral stabiliser to compensate for uneven ground often found on a job site.

Consider the slip resistance of the surface. If the surface is smooth, slippery, or prone to becoming frozen, it may pose a greater risk of ladder slippage. Use non-slip mats or add anti-slip attachments, such as soil or ice spikes, to the ladder’s feet for enhanced traction.

Properly assessing the surface where the ladder will be placed is crucial to ensure a stable foundation and reduce the likelihood of ladder-related incidents.

• What are the main safety aspects of working at height to consider?

It sounds ironic when talking about ladders, but your first consideration should be can I do this task from the ground. This is why systems using hoses have become more popular for window cleaning. Working at height is always risky, and the key to safety is planning. We discussed above the need to risk assess the task, select the correct type of ladder for the job and ensure it will allow you to get to where you need to be without over-reaching. Inspect your ladder for damage, and ensure the ground you place your ladder on is stable. If you are in doubt, TB Davies has a vison to make work from ladders as safe as standing on solid ground and reduce accidents from ladders to zero. TB Davies has a specialist team that provides free advice on selecting the correct ladder and keeping you out of the emergency room.

• Where can I get training in working with ladders?

TB Davies recommends Ladder Association training that offers accredited expertise, comprehensive instruction, and industry recognition. It covers essential ladder safety topics, keeping you updated with current standards. The training provides practical skills and hands-on experience, reducing risks associated with working at height. By choosing ladder association training, you demonstrate legal compliance, enhance safety culture, and gain peace of mind. The training is tailored to different levels of expertise and job roles, ensuring relevance. Overall, it equips you with the knowledge and skills to assess, select, and use ladders safely, promoting a safer work environment and increasing professional credibility. Details of Ladder Association courses can be found at

• What’s the story behind TB Davies?

During the second world war, Flight Luitenant T.Bryn Davies and Seargent. A. Colin Morgan were travelling together. They discovered a common purpose, believing every person and every business had the power to change the world for the better. Although they were soon parted by separate postings, they kept in close touch, with Bryn promising the younger man they would work together when the war was over. He later sold his house to establish TB Davies and kept that promise. 

As a fourth-generation family company, those founding principles remain undimmed. Today, the world remains as unpredictable as when we started in 1945, so we are focused on reducing injuries from ladders to zero. Our emphasisremains on integrity, quality and bringing to market products that help the user keep safe when working at height.

• Where can I find out more about TB Davies?

You can find TB Davies products at most major retailers, including Screwfix, Toolstation, and B&Q. Our website will provide more detailed information about our products, our history and how to keep safe when working at height. We are always happy to help in any way we can, so feel free to call us on 029 2132 0000 or e-mail us at

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