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Building services led way on ladder safety

Roofing contractors could learn from building services about the safer alternatives to using a ladder – according to Bob Towse head of technical and safety at the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA).

The Health and Safety Executive has come under fire from the Confederation of Roofing Contractors which claims firms are so worried about using ladders and possibly breaching regulations that they are using fixed platforms for almost all work. It argues that this is forcing up the cost of work.

But, Mr Towse argues the building services industry has led the way on raising site safety by moving away from stand alone ladders towards scaffolding and podium steps.

He said: “Due to the new working at height regulations there has been a major move away from ladders in the industry. There are much safer ways of working at height than a ladder which really is not designed as a work platform and is no longer seen as appropriate.

“You will not see extension ladders on many building sites now and even step ladders are carefully controlled.

“The costs are not that great and there is a corresponding reduction in accidents with the drop in use of ladders. I think roofing companies could learn a lot from building services on this.”

A HSE insists it is not opposed to the use of ladder, but wants to promote the sensible use of the equipment.

This week it launched an initiative in Essex to raise awareness of ladder safety issues. As part of this HSE set up a ladder exchange at branches of SGB Hire, Speedy Hire or Ladderstore.com where people taking in old ladders can get discounts on new ones and hire services.

An HSE spokesman said: “The HSE expects people working at height with ladders and other access equipment to be competent to do the job. This does not necessarily require formal training.”