Ladder safety under the spotlight: £1m fine issued after death

Published: 6 Jan 2018

For many of us the use of ladders is something that cannot be avoided. Whether it be changing of light bulbs or decorating involving overhead fixtures and fittings, ladder safety must be considered within the workplace.

We look at a recent prosecution and guidance for the safe use of ladders.

A Hull-based bakery has been ordered to pay a fine of £1million after a self-employed contractor died when he fell from a stepladder. Hull Crown Court was told that the worker was contracted to complete electrical work at Greencore Grocery Ltd site in Hull in October 2013. The worker was wiring a motor situated above a machine whilst standing on a stepladder. The company agreed this work activity could be completed using a stepladder, which it had provided. The employee fell from the stepladder and suffered fatal injuries

The Health and Safety Executive eBulletin has recently been released which focuses on the requirements to make sure that your business and its employees are kept safe when working with ladders:

Safe use of ladders

Combination ladders

Following a recent fatal accident investigation, HSE is strongly advising all duty holders and users of combination ladders to ensure that they:

  • carry out pre-use checks;
  • use them in accordance with instructions;
  • check the locking mechanism(s).

Failure to do so could result in serious accidents.

Telescopic ladders. 

The use of telescopic ladders is growing more popular due to their ease of storage and convenience; however, there are numerous issues with many of these products due to the number of components involved and their construction. Namely:

  • they are often rated for a lower load (person, tools and materials);
  • the stiles are prone to greater bending;
  • they are prone to greater bending of the frame.

The issues are likely to increase with the height of the ladder.

The situation is compounded by significant numbers of substandard products that are being made available on the UK market.  These are often low cost products that are attractive and are imported from outside the EU. Some of these have been implicated in serious accidents, including fatalities. The relevant European Standard – BS EN 131-6:2015 – provides more information on the design requirements.

Duty holders and users should ensure that:

  • pre-use checks on the ladders are thorough, checking the components and operation of each and every locking mechanism (often one or two per rung) and the associated release mechanism(s);
  • the ladders are stored well, transported carefully and maintained (including cleaning) as dirt and grit etc. can affect locking mechanisms;
  • they understand the limitations and likely performance of their ladder, e.g. strength, bending etc.

Trading Standards are aware of the substandard products and have been taking action.


HSE will be amending its ladder guidance INDG455: Safe use of ladders and stepladders: A brief guide


If you require assistance with ladder usage guidelines or training, please contact us.

Source and further reading:

How To Use A Ladder Safely: A Complete Guide