It’s Ladder Safety Month | March 2023 Safety Advisor

From changing a lightbulb to getting on a roof, ladders are a common piece of equipment used in almost every home or job site. They may appear harmless, yet thousands of people have died due to falls from a ladder or scaffolding. 

Understanding the different types of ladders and safe practices are key to preventing falls and other injuries. 

Here are some helpful tips provided by OSHA:

  • Read and follow all labels and markings on the ladder.
  • Avoid electrical hazards. Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder and avoid using metal ladders near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Inspect the ladder prior to using it. If it’s damaged it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
  • Maintain three-point contact (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and face the ladder while climbing.
  • Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
  • Ladders must be free of slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
  • Do not use the top rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
  • Use ladders on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured to prevent displacement.
  • Never place a ladder on boxes, barrels or any unstable bases to obtain additional height.
  • Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the ladder’s working length from the wall or other vertical surface.
  • In any location where a ladder can be displaced by other work activities must be secured or a barricade erected to keep traffic away.
  • Check that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of its load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.

While some of these dos and don’ts seem obvious, it’s important to remember that every year, 100 people die in ladder related accidents and thousands suffer disabling injuries.

The good news is that ladder safety is becoming a key safety topic among employees in the construction industry and that ladder-related injuries and fatalities are completely preventable. 

Toolbox Talk 

All ladders must be inspected periodically by a competent person for defects and damage and after any occurrence that could affect their safe use. Inspect and check for:

  • Broken split, cracked, corroded or missing rungs and side rails
  • Cracks. They are hard to see and weaken ladders.
  • Excessive bends. Bent rungs and side rails are weakened and may fail.
  • Loose, corroded, or weakened fasteners and hardware
  • Missing or damaged feet. 
  • Defects hidden by paint or coating
  • Oil, grease, and other slipping hazards
  • The capacity label, and that the ladder can safely hold you and everything you are wearing and carrying.

Information provided by OSHA, American Ladder Institute. Prepared and edited by Michael Ballantine; Occupational Safety Consultants 


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