Choosing the Right Type of Roof Access Ladder

It is a legal requirement to provide a safe and compliant roof access ladder when there is a need to access a roof to conduct any type of maintenance or inspection works. AS1657:2018 and the Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces Code of Practice, provide clear guidelines on what types of methods can be used with a hierarchy showing the preferred methods in order of preference.

The hierarchy order of roof access is set out in Section 2 of the Standard AS1657:2018  – Means of Access, and is as follows:

  • Stairs
  • Step type ladder
  • Angled ladder
  • Vertical

Within this there is also a range of designs and types depending upon the location, environment, height and angle. For example, stairs can be installed at an angle of between 20° and 45° but with the preferred angle being between 30° and 38°. Likewise angled ladders can be between 70° and 90° with the preferred angle being between 70° and 75°.

While this seems quite straight forward, there is a substantial amount of additional information within the Standard and also the Code of Practice that must be taken into consideration. As an example, we often see vertical caged ladders at workplaces which technically comply with AS1657:2018, and so at face value OHS staff at that workplace believe they have provided a safe means of entry. However if you read further into the Standard and in particular Section 7.2 of the Code of Practice, it clearly states that a vertical caged ladder is considered high risk and must only be installed if there is no other alternative. It goes on further to state that if a vertical ladder must be installed it should have either a permanent or temporary type of fall arrest system installed to control the risk of a fall. Installing or implementing a fall arrest system to a ladder, then triggers the requirement for specific training for the users of the system as well as the requirement for a trained and proven rescue plan to be implemented. This adds to the risks involved with using this type of ladder and is why we recommend that where possible angled or step type ladders should be considered over the installation of a vertical ladder.

Another common mistake we see is where a vertical caged ladder has been installed and the workplace becomes aware of the high fall risk, they immediately install a vertical fall arrest cable system or implement workers to use a harness with twin tailed lanyards. What they fail to realise is that it has been shown to be almost impossible to rescue a fallen unconscious worker who is suspended within the confines of a ladder cage. The Work Health and Safety Regulation clearly states that where a fall arrest system has been installed to control the risk of a fall, that a tried and proven rescue plan is implemented and workers trained in this method. Therefore as it is not possible to conduct a rescue within a cage, the workplace is immediately in breach of the Regulation.

When it comes to designing and installing a safe means of roof access, it can start to seem very complicated and a bit overwhelming. However once you are aware of the requirements and follow the hierarchy of control it is actually quite simple. To help you with this, we have written a selection guide that will step you through the different types of access you can install and details all the information you need to know. There will be five guides starting with roof access stairs. You can also contact us at any time and speak to one of our experienced safety team.

Safe At Heights

18 Rowland Street,
Slacks Creek
Queensland, 4127