Portable ladders: the most frequent accidents

Portable ladders are frequently used in the workplace, but can cause different types of injuries if they are not used properly.

Types of accidents

The most common types of injuries with portable ladders include falls, which account for most accidents. Falls can occur due to an unstable base, improper use of the ladder or lack of attention from the operator.

Other frequent accidents involve accidents related to the scale overload, which can cause the structure to collapse or sudden overturning. In addition, the risks of crushing the fingers are quite common when opening and closing the portable stairs. It is important to pay special attention to these operations to avoid injury.

Accidents involving damaged or defective ladders are also a significant category. Always use stairs in good condition and regularly check that they are intact and safe to avoid dangerous situations.

Factors contributing to injuries with portable ladders

One of the main factors, as well as very trivial, is the incorrect use of the scale, for example by placing it in an unstable way. Haste can lead operators to take risky actions, such as climbing too fast or ignoring safety regulations. In addition, the working environment can affect safety: slippery surfaces, uneven terrain or the presence of obstacles can increase the risk of falls.

Safety procedures for the correct use of the portable ladder

To prevent accidents by properly using a portable scale it is important to check that it is in good condition and that it is suitable for its intended use. Make sure that the ladder is placed on a stable and flat surface, avoiding to place it on slippery or unstable surfaces. When using the ladder, it is essential to always keep both feet steady on the steps and avoid leaning on one side or leaning too far forward. Be careful of sudden or sudden movements that could cause an imbalance and drop the ladder.

Types of portable ladders

The reference technical standard for portable ladders is UNI EN 131

According to the guideline “Use of portable ladders in temporary and mobile construction sites” of the Lombardy Region we can classify the portable ladders in:

  • Simple ladders: ladders that, once ready to use, rest the lower part on the ground and the upper part on a vertical surface, having no support of their own. hey can be single trunk or several trunks that can be grafted or removed.
  • Double ledders: self-stable ledders that, when ready for use, support themselves by placing the two trunks on the ground, allowing the climb from one or both sides, depending on the type.
  • Castle stairs: self-supporting stairs with a solid support base, a climbing log equipped with handrails and a large parking platform with normal parapet on three sides.

Proper use of portable ladders on construction sites

Suitability and training of workers

Workers in charge of using the ladder must be fit for the specific task issued by the Competent Physician and must have received adequate training and comprehensive training in the use of the equipment provided. The presence and accessibility of the user and maintenance manual must always be guaranteed.

Before using

The scale must be appropriate for the specific use and before each use must verify the integrity, state of preservation and efficiency. Any residues such as mortars, paints, oils, grease or ice must be carefully removed from the ladder. You have to check the maximum weight allowed by the scale and do not exceed it in any case.

The worker who ascends the ladder must wear appropriate clothing and any PPE provided by the Employer for the job.

Portable ladder carrying on the shoulder

When a worker carries a portable ladder on his shoulder, he must keep it tilted and never horizontal, especially if visibility is limited. It must also support the ladder with the arm avoiding inserting it inside the ladder between steps or rungs.

Location of the portable ladder

The steps or rungs of the ladder must at all times be horizontal with respect to the floor or base, while the ladder must be supported on a regular, fixed, stable and slippery surface. If necessary, it must be attached to the supporting surface.

For ladders equipped with height adjustable feet, positioning on inclined surfaces is allowed, with the obligation to adjust them so that the rungs or steps constantly maintain horizontality. The maximum distance of the first step or rung from the support surface shall be 315 mm, and the support surface shall be easily accessible.

In the case of placing on a scaffold, the increased risk of falling from a height must be taken into account, requiring the adoption of appropriate safety measures. Ladders must always be placed on their own stoppers or feet, and must not be placed on steps or rungs.

The placement of the ladder should be carefully evaluated, considering the risks of collision with any vehicles, doors, pedestrians, as well as away from power lines, vacuum openings, blunt metal objects and sources of heat or smoke. When used outdoors, the location of the staircase shall take into account potential weather hazards, and the area below shall be segregated.

The locking mechanisms shall be correctly positioned in accordance with the user and maintenance manual.

After using

After the activity on the staircase, it must be closed and placed in a covered place; if the staircase had become dirty with paints, oils or other things it must be cleaned. It is also important to check which maintenance is required and indicated in the user manual and to implement it regularly.

Risk of falling from height

According to the Legislative Decree 81/08 art. 107 the risk of falling is when the worker is at more than 2 m above a stable floor while working.

Risk of falling from above: how to protect yourself


The risks associated with working activities at a quota level are mainly:

  • risk of falling from a height means a serious risk which can cause permanent injury or death:
    • injuries due to the stopping force,
    • injuries caused by impact with soil or other materials or obstacles,
    • injuries or more generally effects due to prolonged suspension.
  • risk of suspension,
  • environmental risks,
  • risks related to the manual handling of loads,
  • risks related to loads,
  • competing risks

risk of falling from a height means a serious risk which can cause permanent injury or death:

  • injuries due to the stopping force,
  • injuries caused by impact with soil or other materials or obstacles,
  • injuries or more generally effects due to prolonged suspension.

Types of fall

Free fall is a fall where the distance is more than 600 mm in the vertical direction, but also in a slope without the assistance of a handrail.

Limited free fall is the fall where the distance is equal to or less than 600 mm in the vertical direction and on a slope where there is no handrail.

When a person who is giving in is restrained by the action of a suitable retaining device, this is referred to as a contained fall. This drop shall never exceed 600 mm.

Fall totally expected is that situation in which a retention system prevents the worker from reaching the area presenting the risk of falling.

Pendulum effect

Pendulum effect is that phenomenon that occurs whenever a part of the weight of the operator is not balanced by the reaction of the cover and is misaligned with respect to the retaining rope. Due to the oscillation around the worker’s stopping position, the body can undergo rotations and oscillations, with the risk of bumping against projecting elements or the ground itself, especially if you are at a reduced height.

If there is a risk of the user encountering an obstacle during the pendulum effect, it is necessary to adopt a different configuration of the anchor line or an alternative system. To prevent the pendulum effect, it is important to know how to evaluate the air rod, the minimum vertical distance necessary for the worker to stop safely in a fall stop system. The air tie is the stopping distance increased by 1 m as a safety value. The air tie is the stopping distance increased by 1 m as a safety value.

Risk of suspension

Suspension or harness syndrome is a condition that can occur when an inert person remains suspended. In this position, blood tends to accumulate in the legs and lower body, as the force of gravity hinders the venous return to the heart. This can cause cardiovascular failure and cerebral ischemia.

Even conscious suspension, particularly if prolonged and continuous, may pose risks to the health of the worker due to the compression of the vessels of the lower limbs. But in inert suspension following loss of consciousness there is a rapid deterioration of vital functions.

Environmental risks

Despite the work at height can be carried out only if the weather conditions do not endanger the safety of workers (D.Lgs. 81/08 art. 111 c. 7), there are various risks related to environmental conditions such as the fall of objects or structural parts from above, collapses, uncontrolled felling, slipping of the supports, structural failure, exposure to atmospheric lightning, fire.

Risks related to the manual handling of loads

Manual handling of loads causes damage if you lift weights by curving your back, if a fixed position is maintained for a long time, and if you are pulling or pushing.

Competing risks

Concurrent risks are those hazards that can occur simultaneously or in rapid succession, increasing the overall risk of an adverse event or accident. These risks can come from different sources, such as environmental conditions, equipment. In work at height, the main competing risks are poor shoe grip, glare, rapid cooling, reduced visibility, heat stroke, dehydration, dizziness and balance disturbances.

Types of PPE

Art. 111 of D.Lgs. 81/08 indicates first of all to give priority to collective protection measures and secondly to equipment suited to the nature of the work, foreseeable stresses and a risk-free circulation. PPE for work at height is chosen according to some fundamental criteria:

  • the operator must work and move easily,
  • assessment of the compatibility of the device with the specific work to be carried out,
  • compatibility assessment of all system components,
  • preparation of a procedure for the recovery of the worker in the event of a fall.

PPE for the retention

They prevent falls from above by limiting the operator’s displacement so that it does not reach the areas where it is possible to fall.

PPE for the positioning

They allow the operator to work tension-supported.

Systems to stop the fall

They consist of several elements: harness, energy absorber, lanyard, connector and anchor point. The lanyard can have a maximum length (including connectors) of 2 m. The function of the energy absorber is to dissipate kinetic energy during the fall; the requirements are laid down in the standards UNI 355 and UNI 364. Connectors can be automatic or manual locking.

The harness is designed to distribute tension on the body during fall and fall. It consists of the following elements: shoulder straps, front strap, belt adjustment buckle, thigh, shoulder adjustment buckles, positioning belt, back hook, thigh adjustment buckles, marking.

Restraining systems complying with EN 358 and work positioning belts shall consist of a belt positioned at waist level, with a support back and at least two attachment points to connect a positioning or restraining cord, which can be adjustable or fixed.

The leg belt, in accordance with EN 813, is used in restraint, work positioning and rope access systems, but only when activities are not at risk of falling from the top or tipping over, as it is not suitable for stopping free falls safely. It consists of a belt and padded thighs of adequate size to ensure optimal comfort to the operator and has a central attachment.

A fall arrester system with retractable devices consists of a harness and a retractable fall arrester attached to an anchorage point with self-locking reel and retractable cord. The retractable device blocks movement when exceeding the speed of 1,5 m/s and has a maximum stopping distance of 2 m.

Finally, between the PPE can not miss the helmet for the protection of the head and the shoes that can be of type SB, S1, S2 or S3.


The anchorages consist of three elements: support structure, anchor and element to be fixed.

The type of anchorages corresponds to the standards that meet:

  • UNI EN 795: temporary anchoring devices:
    • designed exclusively for fall-proof PPE,
    • usable by a single worker,
    • removable from the anchoring structures without damaging them.
  • EN 11578: permanent anchoring devices:
    • designed exclusively for fall-proof PPE,
    • also usable for multi-user,
    • removable from the anchoring structures without damaging them.
  • UNI EN 516 and 517: safety hooks.
  • Circular MLPS 85/78, 44/90, 132/91: anchorages for scaffolding.
  • ETAG 001: concrete anchors.
Marking of anchorages

Permanent anchorages do not fall within the scope of Legislative Decree 475/92 and are therefore not PPE and therefore should not be CE marked. On the other hand, non-permanent anchorages are considered PPE and must therefore be CE marked.


Preventing the risk of falling from a height at the workplace is a priority in protecting the health and safety of workers. The implementation of appropriate safety measures, in combination with the use of the most appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), is a crucial factor in ensuring a safe working environment. The implementation of appropriate safety measures, in combination with the use of the most appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), is a crucial factor in ensuring a safe working environment.

Work at high with scaffolds

Scaffolds an work at height: practical guide

The scaffold is a type of equipment widely used to provide a stable platform but at the same time to move quickly. It is normally used to deal with some work at height that does not take much time and that must be carried out at a height not particularly high, less than 12 meters.

UNI EN 1004:2021

The use of mobile scaffolding defined by Legislative Decree 81/08 as a bridge equipped with wheels is regulated by UNI EN 1004:2021, in force since December 2021. The standard provides a complete overview of the use of the trabattello and in particular is the reference for:

  • definitions (scaffolding, component, installation, maintenance, etc.);
  • safety requirements for the design, production and use of mobile prefabricated scaffolding. These include load requirements, stability, weather resistance, safe access, fall prevention, etc.;
  • design and production: you will find the specifications of the materials, dimensions and workloads allowed;
  • requirements for installation and dismantling, including assembly procedures, stability checks, protection against electricity hazards, etc.
  • maintenance and inspection: cleaning procedures, stability and operation checks of components, etc.

Then it is necessary to distinguish the scaffolds from the small scaffolds defined and regulated by UNI EN 11764:2019.


Both scaffolds and small scaffolds are classified according to the following factors:

  • Load class: For bogs the load classes can be 2 and 3 respectively with a uniformly distributed load of 1,50 and 2,00 kN/m2. For small scaffolds the maximum load is 150 kg including a single worker, equipment and material.
  • classes of use: there are only two or inside or in the sternum and in turn imply respectively the absence or presence of wind.
  • height classes :
    • scaffolds can have class H1 ≥ 1,85 m or H2 ≥ 1,90 m;
    • small scaffolds h < 2 m o 2 m ≤ h < 4 m.
  • access classes:
    • access type A: ramp staircase,
    • type B access: staircase,
    • type C access: inclined ladder,
    • type D access: vertical ladder.
  • Access mode: for normal trabattelli you can access it from the outside or from the inside. Outside access is allowed if the highest height is less than 2 m. For the small scaffolds the modalities of access are classified as follows:
    • Type E access: outside,
    • Type I access: inside,
    • EI type access: outside and inside.

Designation and label

Scaffold in accordance with UNI EN 1004:2021 must have its designation in which the following information and indications are indicated:

  • the product: scaffold,
  • the reference to the standard: UNI EN 1004:2021,
  • the load class: 2 or 3,
  • the maximum height outside and inside: 8 and 12 m,
  • access classes: A, B, C or D for trestles with a single type of access; ABCD if there are four types of access; or if there are two accesses, the missing ones must be indicated interspersed with an X (for example if the accesses are B and D with XBXD),
  • height classes: 1,85 m (H1), 1,90 m (H2).

The label of scaffold visibly placed must indicate the designation, the name of the manufacturer, the words “read the instruction manual”.

The small scaffold similar to the scaffold must have in its designation the same indications according to UNI EN 11764:2019. The label is also similar.


Once mounted or transformed the scaffold must be equipped with a visible sign with some essential minimum information:

  • name of the supervisor,
  • assembly date ,
  • load class,
  • if the scaffold is ready for use,
  • if the scaffoldis exclusively for indoor use.

Scaffold choice

The scaffold choice must be made considering different aspects such as the dimensions of the scaffold, whether the work is to be done indoors or outdoors, whether there is wind or not, the load class, the type of access, if the loads are horizontal or vertical as they can destabilise the trap itself, the conditions of the ground, the possible use of stabilizers, external projections, ballast or if there is a need for anchorages.

the greatest risks

The greatest risk is represented by the fall of the operator, who can fall both during the assembly or disassembly phase, and during the work at height, but also during the ascent and descent between the various bridges.

During assembly/disassembly, the risk of manual handling of loads is present because these phases require the handling of prefabricated frames and boards for assembly.

Accidental dropping of material such as tools or other objects can occur while performing work. The presence of tools or other obstacles on deck planes can cause the worker to slip or stumble and fall with the risk of accident.

Risks associated with moving the scaffold

There is also the investment risk: you have to pay attention also in the displacement of the scaffold to avoid investing any other workers on the path. Shocks can occur with electrical cables or structural elements such as beams, bridge cranes or other suspended elements, causing the possibility of electrocution or damage to the worker involved.

Rollover risk

Overloading or incorrect positioning or the absence of stabilizers or anchoring can cause the overflow to overturn and workers to fall.

The oscillation of the scaffold can be due to an ineffective locking of the wheels; oscillation that would be amplified by the presence of load on top.


Accurate inspection of the metal components allows optimal maintenance. It must be carried out by qualified personnel and in particular it must monitor:

  • surface layer,
  • state of wear and corrosion,
  • state of the welds,
  • status of moving parts,
  • state of screws, pins, nuts, bolts, rivets.

While for the maintenance of the wooden components you must check:

  • presence of cuts or abrasions,
  • usury,
  • damage caused by heat or aggressive substances,
  • deterioration caused by sunlight.

These checks must take into account the frame, the diagonals, the currents, the intermediate and thermapidal protection, the access openings, the decks, the wheels, the stabilizers and the feet.

Documentary aspects and training

The mandatory instructions must be provided by the manufacturer and are indispensable for the correct assembly, disassembly and transformation of the scaffold. For this last phase, the transformation, we mean the transition from one configuration to another, if allowed by the manufacturer for the single model.

Before proceeding with the installation of the scaffold, it is of fundamental importance to carry out an inspection of the site chosen from the assembly to verify the soil conditions, the slope, any obstacles, weather conditions, possible presence of overhead power lines.

Scaffolds should not be marked CE because there is no product directive.

Often when we speak of scaffolds we also speak erroneously of PIMUS (Assembly Plan, Use and Disassembly), but it refers exclusively to the scaffolding itself and not to the scaffolds.

Finally, a mention of the training that is not necessary in itself for the use of the scaffold, but for the type of work that takes place in it or work at height as required by Legislative Decree 81/08. In any case, the workers in charge of the assembly, disassembly and transformation of the scaffold must be trained to the task in accordance with Legislative Decree 81/08.