July 2023: Telescopic accommodation ladders

This safety update highlights the inherent risks associated with deploying, retrieving and stowing telescopic accommodation ladders.

This safety update is primarily for:

  • owners and operators of vessels with telescopic accommodation ladders who are subject to any of the following:
    • The International Safety Management (ISM) code
    • SOLAS
    • The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
    • Part 19 or 21 of the Maritime Rules

This safety update will also be of interest to:

  • maritime training facilities
  • Maritime NZ maritime inspectors, maritime officers, investigators, and technical advisors, and
  • owners and operators of vessels that:
    • use a telescopic boarding arrangement, and
    •  are not subject to the conventions and laws mentioned above.



Serious injuries have occurred when deploying and retrieving telescopic accommodation ladders. Telescopic accommodation ladders typically consist of two sections; a fixed upper section and a sliding lower section.

Telescopic Accommodation Ladder With Chain Fallwire
Maritime New Zealand
Ladder with winch-operated fall wires and chains for lowering, lifting and stowing the ladder.

Typically, the upper section:

  • is mounted on the deck
  • can pivot for deployment and stowage
  • is deployed or retrieved vertically by wire and chain rigging
  • may include motorised rack and pinion gears at its lower end for deploying and retracting the lower section.

Typically, the lower section:

  • slides along the fixed upper section by means of interlocking guides/rollers, or by means of a wire rigged through sheaves
  • is restrained in its sliding movement by fall wires on a winch.
Accommodation Ladder With Rack Pinion Gear System
Maritime New Zealand
Ladder with motorised rack and pinion gears for extending and retracting the lower section of the ladder, and winch-operated fall wires for lowering, lifting and stowage of the ladder.

Causes of serious harm or loss of life

The incorrect deployment and retrieval of telescopic accommodation ladders can result in serious harm or loss of life.

For example, a sudden and unintended movement of the ladder can result in:

  • falling from height, or
  • being trapped between the two ladder sections.


Safety reminder

Owners and operators for whom this safety update is primarily written, have health and safety obligations. These obligations include:

  • providing adequate training or supervision by a competent person so that workers can deploy, retrieve and stow ladders safely, in particular, the raising and collapsing of a ladder’s handrails
  • as part of the vessel’s planned maintenance system, performing appropriate inspections of the ladder’s components including fixed and sliding sections of the ladders, platforms, suspension points, davits, fall wires, sheaves, chains, winches, brake mechanism and remote control systems.
  • safe methods of work and control measures that are formalised in the form of documented procedures such as standing instructions (or checklists). These are to form part of the vessel’s safety management system.

When identifying hazards and assessing the risks associated with the operation of these ladders, owners and operators must monitor and review the effectiveness of all procedures and control measures, and revise them if necessary.

It is good practice for owners and operators to ensure:

  • they keep themselves up-to-date with applicable codes of practice and accident or incident report recommendations
  • the crew are engaged to identify health and safety concerns and manage the risks *
  • procedures are complemented with risk assessments and toolbox/pre-work meetings
  • workers use or wear personal protective equipment correctly. This may include personal flotation devices, safety harnesses and fall arrestors.
  • the minimum number of workers needed to operate and support the safe operation of the ladder is established
  • an experienced crew member is nominated to supervise the deployment, retrieval and stowage of the ladder, especially when persons are required to be on the ladder
  • crew know to keep an eye out for signs of fatigue, for themselves and others. Fatigue can reduce situational awareness and increase the risk of human error
  • exclusion areas are set up
    Note: An exclusion area may not be visible to the winch operator. Ensure crew know to immediately notify the winch operator of anyone seen within an exclusion area.
  • the ladder is rigged as per the manufacturer’s requirements.

* Engaging with crew to identify health and safety concerns and to manage the risks is required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.


Contact us for more help

If you have any questions about this safety bulletin, please contact our Wellington office.


New Zealand (toll free):
0508 225 522


Tell us what you need help with and remember to include your contact details (email address and phone numbers).

This document does not impose legal obligations, and it is not a substitute for applicable legal requirements. It is your obligation to make sure you are operating under the latest legislation and to obtain legal advice where appropriate. You cannot rely on this guidance to be fully up to date.