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Newly Revised AS1657 Webinar – Questions & Answers

Newly Revised AS1657 Webinar – Questions & Answers

Yesterday Carl Sachs hosted a webinar by SAI Global on the changes to AS1657, explaining  how it is going to effect working at heights, including:

  • The impact on compliance with the National Construction Code
  • More stringent testing protocols
  • Ladder design
  • Product labelling requirements

The webinar generated a lot of feedback and questions. Unfortunately due to time constraints Carl wasn’t able to answer all the questions asked, so we’ve taken this opportunity to provide answers to those questions that weren’t covered during the event:

  • Where do mobile access platforms as opposed to fixed platforms fit into the standard?

    AS1657 is called up in other standards, so it’s a matter of applying it as best you can to those situations l

  • How often do installed ladders need to be inspected and certified?

    The code of practise under the harmonized legislation calls for generic inspection of ladders. Look at how often it’s being used, the risks associated with it, the environment and any other issues, and then make a determination. Usually for fixed ladders I recommend 6 monthly to annual inspections, depending on how old it is and how corrosive the surrounding environment is.

  • How would you test an installed ladder?

    It’s difficult to test a ladder once installed. This should be done beforehand. Ask the manufacturer/fabricator to show you how the requirements have been met if you’re unsure. I’m sure it can be done by applying weights in situ.

  • Some requirements have been lowered and these reduced requirements present additional risks. Please comment on the standards that were lowered and detail the benefits obtained from the reduction against the increased risk they present

    I personally don’t believe that the standards have been lowered. Issues have been clarified and the many small details contribute toward much safer equipment. It reflects the Australian community’s expectations following public comment and a democratic process. What would be helpful is you could detail specifically which requirements you feel have been reduced.

  • On Page 8 under 1.5.12 (landings) it says that a landing is a level area that provides access to a stairway or ladder, but then later in Section 4.1.1 it states that a landing SHALL BE LEVEL with a MAXIMUM slope in any direction of 3 degrees. If it’s meant to be level why is it allowed a 3 degree slope in any direction, AND then later in it states a ladder is allowed a maximum cross slope of 7 degrees? Is the maximum allowed slope of ladder landings level, 3 degrees, or 7 degrees?

    If there is a conflict in the information and text and editing issues, then you should formally put this to the standards committee through Standards Australia for clarification.

  • In table H1 rung ladders with a slope greater than 75 degrees can be up to 4.5m high without fall prevention. How is this a safe solution?

    It’s not particularly safe at all. I agree with you. A risk assessment should be done to determine a more appropriate control, which may include staggering ladders or other means.

  • If you manufacture a rung ladder for access to higher levels as part of a machine install, do you need to carry out the 6 tests?

    If a one off  ladder installation is to comply with the standard, it must be tested or certified by an engineer as meeting the requirements. If the ladder is a resold item, then it needs to be tested and certified by an engineer.

  • How does knurled walkway fit into the standard – can it be used instead of cleats?

    Cleats need to be used in the range prescribed in the standard, irrespective of the slip resistance claimed by the manufacturer. Whilst “knurled” walkway may have a particular resistance, cleats must still be installed.

  • Surely Appendix F covers in situ testing of ladders too?

    The same provisions would apply in situ. It’s more of a challenge doing this outside of a laboratory, but it can definitely be done and the same limits and methodology applies.

  • Jetties and wharfs usually don’t have handrails and/or guardrails. Also ladders to the water level can’t have cages and intermediate landings – please comment.

    The guardrailing requirements relate to platform and surfaces that present fall hazards. If the jetty falls into one of these categories, then it should, although there may be separate requirements for these areas.

Feel free to leave your comments and feedback below. If you have any additional questions please post them and I’ll endeavour to answer them.

About The Author

Carl Sachs is the Managing Director of the working at heights specialists Workplace Access & Safety. He is a renowned expert in height safety and consults to major corporations and government on working at height. He represents the FMA (Facility Managers Association) on Australian standard committee AS/NZS1891, and was a committee member that redrafted AS1657. He is Chairman of the Technical Committee of WAHA (Working at Heights Association), and is a director of the Association.