When are ladders, steps, stairs & walkways required?

Knowing which equipment to use and install when and where is imperative



When it comes to ensuring that your roof access and fall protection systems are compliant, correct system design and selection is paramount in fulfilling your responsibility to ensure your workers are conducting their duties in a safe environment.

Ladders, steps, stairs and walkways are all covered by Australian Standard AS/NZS1657:2018 and this must be adhered to when designing roof access and fall protection systems. Frequency of use to perform maintenance to plant and equipment and varying inclines of slope call for different systems and for each application, choosing the correct product is vital. A brief guideline is:

Australian Standard AS/NZS1657:2013

  • 0 to 20 degrees - This degree of incline should be serviced by a 600mm wide walkway mounted using the appropriate fixing method. It is important to comply with the manufacturer's recommendations with regard to spanning requirements to ensure no flexing occurs which could cause the walkway to become loose or dislodged. Within this degree of incline there are additional requirements that must be complied with:
    • Inclines greater than 7 degrees - Walkways must be levelled when installed across the fall of the roof.
    • Inclines greater than 10 degrees - Walkways installed along the incline of the roof require cleats. Cleat spacing to prevent foot slippage, is dependent on the slope of the walkway.
    • Inclines greater than 12 degrees - Walkways installed on roofs with this degree of incline require handrails to protect the operator from a potential fall.
  • 20 to 45 degrees - According to the Standard, this incline is too steep for a walkway and requires a stairway with intermediate landings depending on the length of the system required. Stairways are selected when frequent access for maintenance is required, ie. maintenance of mechanical plant and equipment. Ladders should only be used if stairways are not a feasible solution.
  • 45 to 60 degrees - Classed as the "unsafe zone", the Standard states that access equipment should not be installed or used on this angle of slope. This incline is too steep for a stairway and too shallow for a ladder.
  • 60 to 70 degrees - Step ladders should be used for this degree of slope where treads and handrails are required to be fitted. This is the recommended system when periodic access for maintenance is required.
  • 70 to 90 degrees - Rung ladders are the correct system for this incline and should be installed at the preferred angle of 75 degrees. The installation of intermediate landings should also be implemented when they extend above 6.0 metres. Fall protection is required by means of a cage or fall arrest life line where they exceed 3.5 metres.

For further information on which types of access system to select for your application, you should obtain a copy of Standard AS/NZS 1657:2018 from SAI Global.

Remember, there are many legal consequences should you choose to install incorrect or inadequate safety equipment. According to the WHS Regulations, if you are a building owner, facility manager or an employer it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of those working in and around your buildings, so you need to be aware of what guidelines and regulations are required to comply, ensuring that you are not left open to potential litigation.

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