Ladder Safety In The Workplace: Guidelines For Safe Usage

November 26, 2022
By N. Nicholas, ASP
Ladder Safety In The Workplace

Using ladders incorrectly is one of the main causes of occupational fatalities(1) and is a frequently cited federal OSHA standard.

Ladders are safe only when used correctly. Before starting any job that requires you to use a ladder, make sure you select the right type to do the job safely.

The wrong type of ladder can cause an accident.

Some causes of ladder accidents include:

  • Failure to inspect a ladder before use
  • Using the wrong size
  • Not securing the ladder correctly
  • Not facing the ladder while climbing or descending
  • Holding tools or materials while climbing
  • Placing the ladder on unstable surfaces
  • Overreaching

Ladder Duty Ratings

The maximum load refers to the weight of a fully clothed person and the tools and equipment he or she may be carrying.

Before choosing a ladder, review the load capacity on the manufacturer’s label, also called duty rating.

Exceeding the load capacity may cause the ladder to collapse.

Remember: do not carry tools or equipment in your hands.

Types of Ladders

  • Wooden ladders provide insulation against heat and cold. However, they age quickly when left for extended periods in sunlight and inclement weather.
  • Metal ladders are conductors, so do not use themaround electricity. Also, make sure that they have slip-resistant rungs.
  • Aluminum-type ladders are lightweight and resistant to corrosion and conduct electricity. They do not insulate against heat or cold.
  • Fiberglass ladders are weather-resistant and durable. They do not conduct electricity when dry

Before each use, always inspect ladders for:

  • Loose, split, cracked, or missing rungs.
  • Ensure the side rails aren’t damaged
  • Lost or damaged feet
  • Any signs of deterioration (rusting, bent, missing components)
  • Cracks on ladder components, such as the rails and steps.
  • Loose, missing, or damaged parts.
  • Oil, grease, ice, and other items can cause slippery conditions.
  • Any other defects that could make the ladder unsafe.

Using Ladders/ Setup

  • Only set up ladders in safe and stable conditions:
  • Do not place ladders on soft ground or slippery flooring.
  • Do not rest ladders on glass or other weak surfaces.
  • Do not place ladders behind doors unless the door is barricaded (restrict access)
  • Check for overhead power lines (avoid using metal ladders around electrical lines)
  • Extension (non-self-supporting) ladders must extend at a minimum three feet above the highest support point. (e.g., the roofline).
  • Angle non-self-supporting ladders properly, with a 4:1 ratio.
  • Place non-self-supporting ladders so that both rails have equal support.
  • If applicable, get assistance to hold or secure the ladder’s base to prevent accidental slipping.
  • For A-Frame ladders – ensure spreader bars are locked into position before use

General Maintenance

  • Inspect your ladder before each use.
  • Clean and lubricate moving parts per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Do not place ladders close to sources of heat and corrosive compounds.
  • Assure that all rungs are parallel, level, and uniformly spaced.
  • Do not use damaged ladders. Take damaged ladders out of service and mark “Do Not Use.” If ladders are taken out of service, ensure they are destroyed to prevent further use.
  • Use ladders only for their intended purpose.
  • Clean metal ladder rungs to prevent the accumulation of materials that might destroy non-slip properties. Carefully check all metal fittings.
  • Store ladders under suitable cover for protection from the weather.
  • Support horizontally stored ladders at both ends and the intermediate points to prevent sagging, which will loosen the rungs and warp the rails.

Critical Tips For Ladder Safety In The Workplace

  • Seek help if a ladder is too heavy or awkward to place correctly.
  • Never use damaged ladders.
  • Do Not use a step (A-Frame Ladder) as an extension ladder
  • Never use the top two rungs of a ladder
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the setup and use of all ladders.
  • When climbing a ladder, always use both hands, face forward and have a good grip
  • Never reach too far, keep your belt buckle between the rails
  • keep ladders free from slippery materials

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