What do you need for your job: a ladder or a scaffold tower?

If you’ve got high-up work that needs doing but you aren’t sure on the right access solution for the job, then you are in the right place. Both ladders and scaffold towers can be useful and safe for completing work at a height, but it can be unclear at times which is the better option to go for. Many accidents could be avoided if the right equipment is used. The Health and Safety Executive investigated and found that around 40% of height accidents in UK workplaces each year are caused by ladders. Could this figure be reduced if people had more information on what equipment is intended for their job? Maybe, but either way it never hurts to have too much information and hopefully you may learn something here that could be useful for you.

 

Ladders

A big issue is that people tend to use ladders for work that should really be done with a scaffold tower because they are quick to set up and easy to climb. Basically, in this case they’re more convenient to use but much less safe. Remember, ladders are not designed to be platforms to do a lot of work from. According to the Health and Safety Executive guidelines ladders should be used in

  • Low-risk situations, e.g. if a risk assessment has shown that using different equipment with a higher level of protection from falling isn’t justified, or the workplace has existing features that cannot be altered.
  • A short duration, though not a deciding factor it is advised that if your task requires being up a leaning or step ladder for more than 30 minutes at a time then alternative equipment should be considered.
  • Safe scenarios, for example where the ladder can be positioned in a stable and level way and where it is practical to use so that the ladder is secure.

If you are using ladders regularly in the workplace you need to ensure that the people handling them are competent. Meaning that they have had instruction and understand how to use it safely. Appropriate training can help with this, it can be completed on the job under the supervision of someone who has previous experience.

 

Scaffold towers

Naturally in relation to ladders, scaffold towers would be ideally suited to situations where a ladder would not be safe. It is more time consuming and difficult to set up so you should be certain it is required. However, it will reduce the risk of falling from a significant height and sustaining an injury, so it is always worthwhile.

Ladders are used to access areas of height with limited body movement as it compromises the stability of the ladder. Whereas with a scaffold tower you can move around more freely with a fixed structure for solid footing. Hence you can work for longer periods of time than on a ladder. Also, they can be easier to secure in tricky areas where a ladder cannot be stabilised. Whilst it is fairly clear in a work environment when scaffold towers need to be used instead of ladders, when it comes to DIY at home it is less certain. It has been reported that one of the most common causes for DIY accidents in the home is not having the correct safety equipment when tackling a job. This is an alarming fact, but to help ease your mind about choosing a scaffolding tower over a ladder for your home DIY to reduce accidents we want to answer the worries you may have. For example;

  • ‘I don’t have the space to store a big, steel or aluminium scaffolding tower’ – When reduced down it is only a 5ft by 5ft set of access panels which isn’t any more difficult to store than a 10ft ladder would be.
  • ‘Erecting a scaffolding tower looks complicated I’m not sure I could do it correctly’ – It’s simpler than you think, you will have 4 panels, a selection of diagonal and horizontal braces and most importantly a clear set of instructions that will guide you through it.
  • ‘Isn’t a scaffolding tower too much? My project is not that big of a job’ – When it comes to your safety nothing is too much, scaffolding highly reduces your risk of a severe injury, don’t put your life in danger just because you think having a scaffolding tower would be going overboard.

Many people doing DIY at home may feel like a ladder is their only option but this is not the case. When carrying out work to the exterior of your home be sure to look at all possibilities for safe and stable access solutions. If you are ever unsure about what equipment you need for a job you should do your research and find the right option for you. To find a wide range of ladders and scaffold towers to suit a wide variety of needs at home or at work, then check out our range here at BPS Solutions.

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