News / 06.01.20

NASC Statement on Ladders

Confederation's view on BS EN 131 part 1 2015 +A1 2019

BS EN 131 was adopted by the scaffolding industry as the main standard for the specification of ladders used in scaffolding prior to this revision in 2019.

Although this standard is very persuasive in court and represents an authoritative guide, in the Confederation’s opinion, it is not prescribed by a directive and therefore represents industry guidance only. However, BS EN 131 has served the industry well as a suitable specification for professional scaffolding ladders, until this latest revision.

Existing scaffolding ladders in good condition do not need to be replaced and can continue to be used in scaffolding.

The current industry standards and guidance for the design and use of access and scaffolding (e.g. TG20, SG25 etc) cites BS EN 131 for the specification of ladders (versions current at the time of publication).

The scope of the new annexed (+A1) version (2019) to the BS EN 131 standard states, “This standard does not apply to portable ladders which by their design and instructions are intended and limited only for a specific professional use and as a result are not for general professional or nonprofessional”.

The NASC considers that straight one-piece leaning ladders intended only for use as a means of access and egress within scaffolding structures are deemed as ‘specific professional use’.

However, until this annex revision was introduced, the scaffolding industry has benefited from the scope of EN 131 general professional ladders being deemed suitable for scaffolding and this standard represented the nearest comparable specification for professional scaffolding ladders. Something that may or may not have been considered by the CEN committee in drafting these changes.

The 2019 annex introduces a new base dimension calculation (formula) for ‘rung leaning ladders’ in table 2 for stability. The intended use of these general professional ladders is as freestanding ladders, whereas, scaffolding ladders are intended to be stabilised by securely tying them at or near the top.

This new formula will not typically affect short ladders 3m or less in length, as most scaffolding ladders have a minimum width >340mm (plus the width of the stiles/feet). However, for ladders >3m and for manufacturers to claim EN 131+A1 compliance, the base dimension formula would need to apply, and therefore straight leaning rung ladders with an outside dimension wider than 450mm would not be suitable for scaffolding, rendering new ‘general professional use’ ladders unsuitable.

It is important to remember that the applicable legislation is above that of the British / European Standards, such as The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.


Did you know

The NASC has been setting the standard for scaffolding since 1945.