Ladders in Construction

Despite what you may have heard, you can still use ladders under the new law. The new law doesn’t specify heights at which you should or shouldn’t use a ladder, but it does say you must use equipment that’s appropriate to the task. So if you work at height, you must take action to protect workers from harm that could come from a fall, as far as is reasonably practicable. Work platforms, scaffolding and towers are all options that help prevent falls. Ladders should be the last option, and only used for lower-risk and short-duration tasks.

Ladders used by construction and trade workers must be more robust than those used in the home. All ladders should comply with the relevant New Zealand standard and should be labelled accordingly. Specific sites may have rules in place about the use of ladders, check with the site management first.

Choosing the Right Ladder for the Job

Ladders come in a range of styles to suit the different jobs they can be used for:

  • Single Pole Ladders (maximum length 9 metres)
  • Extension Ladders (maximum length 15 metres)
  • Step Ladders (maximum height 6.1 metres)
  • Dual Purpose Ladders (stepladder hinged to provide an extension)
  • Platform (podium) Ladders

If you do need to use a ladder, here’s some quick tips on how to do it safely:

  • Do as much prep work on the ground as possible
  • Where a ladder is used to gain access to a working platform ensure that it extends 1 metre above the working platform.
  • Ladders should be set up at an angle of 1 horizontal (out) to 4 vertical (up)
  • Do not carry tools and materials when climbing a ladder, maintain at least 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times.
  • A ladder is designed to support one person only.
  • Ladders should be used for access only. Inspect the ladder to ensure that there is no damage or obvious defects such as cracks, missing pieces, bent stiles or rungs, worn rubber feet.
  • Use only step ladders with lockable spreader bars (stays) on both sides connected to the front and rear stiles.
  • Step ladders should be set up on firm level ground. Sole plates will be needed on soft ground.
  • Never use the top three rungs of a single pole or extension ladder, and always face the step ladder when standing on it.
  • Dual purpose step ladders must be securely latched by a locking bar or secure catch when extended.
  • Position the ladder as close as possible to the work. Do not reach out, move the ladder instead.
  • Restrain or secure the ladder both at the top and the bottom to prevent it slipping
  • Use an industrial-standard ladder in good condition on stable ground
  • Ensure the stays and clips are secured on stepladders, place the steps towards your work and avoid side-on loading (like drilling side-on through bricks)
  • Ensure all working areas and access ways are clean, level, well-lit and in good condition
  • Remove unwanted material and construction waste regularly from site so it does not accumulate
  • Ensure construction materials, power leads, tools and equipment are positioned and secured to avoid creating hazards
  • Ensure you wear appropriate safety gear
  • Any repairs to a ladder should be carried out using the same materials and to the original manufacturer's design specification or preferably done by the manufacturer or a representative.

Remember not to:

  • Overload
  • Overreach
  • Work near openings or voids
  • Have more than one person on the ladder at one time

Rules and Regulations

For more information refer to: