What goes up must come down, right? Well, hopefully, in a safe manner, especially when working on a ladder. Did you know ladders ranked #3 in OSHA violations for 2021, up from #5 in 2020? And 50 percent of falls requiring medical attention are from 10 feet or less?
For these reasons, ladder safety should be taken very seriously. There are many types of ladders – extension, A-frame, platform, step, straight, telescoping, articulating and orchard. All these ladders have different purposes and may be made of different materials, such as wood, aluminum, or fiberglass. So how can you or your employees be safe when working with ladders? Below are general ladder safety tips.
Choose the right ladder
- Conduct a job hazard analysis of the worksite.
- Is a ladder the best tool for the work?
- Could you use an alternative, such as a platform, scaffold, or lift instead?
- Will you or the employee be carrying materials? If so, consider the duty rating. This indicates the maximum weight capacity the ladder can safely carry. To figure out the total amount of weight your ladder can support, add the following:
- Your weight + weight of your clothing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) + weight of tools and supplies you’re carrying + weight of tools and supplies stored on the ladder.
- Make sure you select a ladder with the appropriate load capacity for the weight that will be on it. There are five categories of ladder duty rating based on weight.
- Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty) – 375 lbs.
- Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty) – 300 lbs.
- Type I (Heavy Duty) – 250 lbs.
- Type II (Medium Duty) – 225 lbs.
- Type III (Light Duty) – 200 lbs.
Consider the surrounding conditions
- Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.
- Will you or your team be working on uneven surfaces?
- Will you or your team be working by electricity or overhead powerlines? If working near power lines, do not use metal ladders as these conduct electricity. Instead, use a non-conductive ladder made of wood or fiberglass. Always assume all overhead lines are energized and dangerous.
Proper ladder care
- Conduct ladder inspections before initial use in each work shift and more frequently as necessary.
- Check the rungs, rails, labels, and locks. If anything is broken, cracked, or missing, the ladder must be taken out of service and clearly marked until fixed or replaced. For example, mark your ladder with a sign that says “Dangerous – Do No Use.”
- Any ladder deemed unsafe must be destroyed in a manner that will render it useless. Another person must not be given an opportunity to use the ladder.
Use the ladder safely
- The ladder should not be placed in front of closed doors that can open toward the ladder. The door must be blocked open, locked, or guarded.
- Securing the ladder is important. Double check stability and that it is extended three feet above the upper landing. Ladders may also need to be affixed to a fascia or gutter guard to improve stability.
- The ladder should also be placed at the proper angle. When determining this, consider the 4:1 rule. For every 4 feet between the ground and the upper point where a ladder is resting, set the feet of the ladder out 1 foot horizontally. For example, if the ladder is resting on the edge of a roof 16 feet above the ground, the bottom of the ladder should be 4 feet out from the ledge.
- Verify if you need fall protection. Fall protection is required for fixed ladders above 24 feet.
Climbing the Ladder
Always face the ladder when ascending and descending and use three points of contact. In other words, have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder steps, rungs and/or side rails. This way, you will not likely become unstable if one limb slips during the climb. It is important to note that you must not carry any objects in either hand that can interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. Tools belts can be helpful if you need to carry tools with you. Or you can also hoist tools using a pulley system or electric hoist. Wearing slip-resistant shoes is also recommended.
Using the Ladder
Never attempt to move the ladder while standing on it or use the top ramp as a step. The ladder should extend three feet above the upper landing. Do not overreach or lean while working to prevent from falling off the ladder.
Influencing ladder safety
- Train employees on ladder selection, storage, how to properly carry ladders, and how to safely use the ladders.
- Conduct frequent ladder inspections and remove ladders that are no longer safe from usage. It is recommended to cut them in half to prevent employees from trying to use them even if they have been marked as out of service.
- Observe employees and coach on correct usage.
If you follow these ladder safety tips, you will be on the right track to working safer so you can return home safely to friends and family each night. Don’t let ladder safety slip you by!