A fixed access ladder is a permanently fixed ladder that is designed for easy installation to gain entry onto roofs or high structures. An access ladder can be vertical or inclined. If it is inclined, the inclination should not be more than 15 degrees. These ladders are very versatile and can be fixed to any type of surface or work area- a building, rooftop, water tank, silo, or even a van. It is generally installed in places where it is not practical to have a staircase, and the place where it is needed is infrequently accessed. When a ladder has to be used frequently at a place of work, the recommended choice is the companionway ladder. Fixed ladders need to be CE certified and comply with the appropriate guidelines laid down by the regulatory bodies for maximum safety.
Compliance and Fall Protection
When investing in a permanent fixed ladder, it is important to check that it complies with all the stipulations laid down. The BS 4211:2005 is a British standard that lays down specifications for manufacturing permanently fixed single bar rung ladders, giving detailed instructions from dimensions, the strength of materials used, welding method, jointing of stiles, spacing of rungs to the ladder finishing- all for maximum safety. Some of the other regulations that products have to conform to are BS EN 1SO 3834 and BS EN 1090-1:2009+A1:2011.
Some safety recommendations include
● If the fixed access ladder exceeds six metres, an intermediate landing should be provided.
● Hoops should be fixed to the ladder after 2.5m, and a passive fall protection system like cages should be installed.
● Clear space behind each rung should be a minimum of 200mm.
● Handrails should open out above the platform between 600mm to 700mm
● Rungs need to withstand a load of 1.5Kn (kilonewton) and should have a diameter of 20mm to 50mm.
The companionway ladder or ships ladder is installed at places where there is no room for a stair, and there is limited space to manoeuvre. These ladders are easy to use and are considered to be safer than the vertical ladder as they are angled between 60 to 75 degrees which provides more stability and flexibility. They are generally used when the rise is less than 3m and installed for easy access to roof spaces or floors with different levels. They can be manufactured in mild steel galvanised or aluminium and should carry the CE marking and conform to BS 4211 standards. These ladders can be installed either with adjustable freestanding feet when a floor or roof mounting is required or fixed with a bracket kit. The companionway ladder can also be fitted with a self-closing gate for additional safety. The self-closing gate has a mechanism that allows the gate to close automatically and blocks off areas that are dangerous, either near the ladder openings or arrival areas on top, for example, if the ladder is close to a roof hatch. These gates are easy to install and only require a handrail and knee-rail, horizontal rails, a self-closing mechanism, and a fixing plate.