About the Author:
Paul Casebourne has spent a life time in service to the Materials Handling Storage and Distribution Industry with over 50 years in materials handling experience from the shop floor to running and operating businesses. He has worked in over 7,000 locations and handled over 20,000 business enquiry problems. In this personal sharing of his experience with you he means you as part of us, the people who provide an amazing facility without which the modern world ceases to function and is held in fine and delicate balance as the events of the early parts of the 21st century have reminded us all only too well. Author, engineer, installer, designer and manufacturer these are some of the fundamentals he shares with you. Please feel free to use and enjoy the ‘takeaways” Sign up here to receive this series in monthly instalment building up into a set of usable, practical help for modern warehousing for businesses in all stages of development.

Chapter 6:

If you want divine inspiration, you can get a heavenly view from the top of a set of step ladders.

If you don’t follow some simple but very sensible best practices, it’s a good way of finishing up there, or worse if you miss!


Nope, still Wrong!

Worse still!

Step ladder incidents are not that common when you take into account ladder sales which exceed a million units a year (UK), but the hospitals still end up with the aftermath of incorrect use.

That said, I was born a truck, trolley, ladder and barrow maker, third generation so I am more into building them and although I have spent my entire life fixing problems, there is still no cure for stupid, so lets park it up and move on.

Omni Access Platform Steps

This was a particularly interesting set which worked in a very narrow aisle for a tyre distribution operation where it could be open to the sides or to the steps but never both giving operators completely safe access to tyre products and quickly too.

The main use is in warehouses and it is still a cheap way of accessing stock. There are alternatives but if you have a fork truck you have a safety platform to work from (which this is) and unlike step ladders, it is safe to work on the platform and hand load a convenient platform on waiting forks or at lower levels pass to a waiting receiver to handle stock in safety using common sense. Stock checking and scanning are all operations performable from these devices. There is even an Australian company makes them with an elevating platform fixed to them.

 We also use them as removable options for mezzanine floors, provided they are secured in position. It provides safe access to high platforms with a safe walk in/walk off facility which can be moved out of the way when not required. A great way to use that platform potential is the one over the loo block or offices. One thing I would say, the correct way to come down the stairs is always facing them, three parts of your body connected as you go up or come down, no exceptions. Oh and unless its in a back pack or in your pocket, never carry anything down steps as shown in the opening pictures. There is one thing worse than meeting God and that’s being stuck needlessly in a wheel chair and a burden on all. Don’t do it.
Think “consequences”.


    So where was I?

    Oh yes using steps creatively.

    It is perfectly possible to use steps as walkways with boards and guarding, just not at ridiculous heights, but plenty do, despite the many safe products available to keep people out of trouble.

    Here are some of them:

    The Top 5 Safety Devices for Steps

    This portable foldable aluminium step deals with several issues:

    • The platform has a kicker plate which prevents accidental slips or tools falling.
    • There is a protective hand rail so you could pick safely with this and still have 3 points of connectivity to enable you to get down the steps in complete safety and collect the picked item from the platform.
    • The steps lock positively when deployed and fold away when not needed. When in use they are on safe wheels that allows movement and remain stable when in use.
    • There are also tool tray options, fall arresters, lanyards and additional anchorage options for less stable applications.
    • Finally, the steps come with rear safety rails to “lock” you safely into the platform.

    Some other items that may elude you include step specifications which exceed the minimum standards. The manufacturing standard as at September 2022 is BS EN 13. Anytime you use steps these five precautions should be prominent in your mind.

    To change tack a little, all this is fine but what happens when you have special applications?

    Yet another good question:

     Acid Tank Application

    This job was to provide safe access over an acid bath so the walkway and steps work together, there are anchorage systems designed in, along with many of the features mentioned above. The whole system has to demount and when in use lock into the crane gear tracks which run down the sides the tanks.

    The walkway allows maintenance engineers safe access for servicing over head lifting equipment critical to operations. Fall arrestors are included. The above are the development site drawings. This is the final manufacturing drawing once I perfected the site architecture.

    A neat flat pack, which stored out of the way until required. Assembly time under 5 minutes including handling.

    Multi Level Machinery Access

    This is another set of multi platform steps. This time it has fold up handrails with sides, deployable outriggers, castors with brakes and a top safety gate to leave the steps when locked in position to gain access to a high level maintenance walkway to service a very special production line system.

    As far as I know it is the only one in the world and it works to perfection! The engineers can work at any different level, from either side or face to carry out critical work, which was incurring a lot of down time, expensive hire equipment and delays.

    Again, below is a very good example of the trouble a surveyor should go to in ensuring critical knowledge gets back to manufacturing.   That little aluminium box at the base incurred some head scratching and the steep incline angle meant fixings were a critical part of the design. The top balcony on the machine is at almost roof height and the machine is enclosed in its own clean air environment.

    Nothing can be left to chance. Again a great permanent fixture giving fast, safe access, cutting down time to a minimum and no need to go hunting to find it when it’s really needed. Note the hand rail and treads. I think these additions definitely put the ladder in the step ladder bracket and separates them from ladders. You won’t find these in a DIY store

    There are so many designs which may be adapted and sometimes quite cheaply which totally transform tasks which are otherwise clumsy and often unsafe. getting on and off the back of a lorry trailer is one.   Steps make this a lot safer than breaking limbs or damaging goods during unloading processes. I have been asked to design steps for load sheeting up for example and maintenance operations for trailers, all of which add safety to the speed of essential tasks. A problem in my industry is simply an opportunity to be welcomed by us and for which there are many ways to solve the issue by good survey and design.


    Take Aways

    • The use of steps are so well documented that many people think that what retail offers is all there is, this is not so.
    • Working at height is risky, however with the right designers and procedures combined these risks may be mitigated and the step design adapted mission specific to produce a wide ranging set of benefits with fast risk free paybacks when compared directly with alternatives.
    • Steps unlock assets which may otherwise be inaccessible or high risk to access.
    • There are a range of designs and techniques that turn steps into an essential tool box for safe, rapid reaction incident responses.
    • A good way to think about steps would be as a station which facilitates process which otherwise remain disjointed and bothersome
    • Don’t write steps off as an automatic health and safety flag to be avoided.
    • If you are looking to solve problems for field applications where they become part of the equipment pack on the service vehicle for example, then a prototype is a great option and a good manufacturer will certainly provide that service to obviate error.