Falls from ladders are a leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control statistics published in 2014, 43% of fatal falls in the last decade involved ladders. Additionally, ladder use contributed to 20% of non-fatal injuries among the nation’s workers.
It’s not surprising to learn that the leading occupation impacted by ladder falls is construction. However, the industry following close behind is “Installation, Maintenance and Repair” operations.
Nearly every business in America includes some level of “Installation, Maintenance or Repair” activity in order to ensure productive and efficient processes. Whether your industry is Healthcare, Hospitality, Manufacturing, or Construction--- Everyone uses ladders!
To prevent ladder use injuries, employers should consider the following safe-use practices:
Inspect the ladder before each use and include ladders in general site safety inspection routines. Any damaged ladders should be tagged and removed from service immediately.
- Are all rungs and steps intact and in good condition?
- Are steps clean and free of grease/oil?
- Are support braces, rivets, bolts, and screws in place and secured?
- Are sharp edges or splinters removed?
- Are ropes on extension ladders in good condition (no fraying)?
- Are spreaders and other locking devices in good condition and adequately secured?
- Are safety feet in place?
Ladders come in all shapes and sizes, and different work environments require certain ladder types. Choose the right ladder for the job!
- Use stepladders for heights up to 20 feet.
- Use one-section ladders for heights up to 30 feet.
- Use an extension ladder for heights up to 60 feet. (sections must have overlap)
Ladder Rating- ratings are based on weight capacity (worker + equipment)
- 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 (not recommended)
- Label must always be attached to ladder
- Don’t use a metal ladder near live electric wires or in corrosive environments.
- Place the ladder on firm level surface.
- Keep area surrounding ladder clear of trash, debris, tools, equipment.
- Extend a straight ladder three feet above the top support.
- Anchor the top of the ladder to prevent displacement.
- Secure the ladder footing or have someone hold the ladder secure.
- Don’t rest a ladder on a window or in a door way.
- Angle straight ladders at a 4:1 slope (distance from bottom to wall= ¼ the ladder’s working length)
- Position an extension ladder before extending it.
- Never use a step ladder (self-supporting ladder) as a straight ladder. Always fully open a step ladder.
- DON’T stand on boxes, chairs or anything else. If you don’t have a ladder, get one.
- Wear clean, slip resistant shoes.
- Only allow one person on ladder at a time.
- Always face ladder when climbing up or down.
- Always keep three points of contact with the ladder.
- Carry tools up on a rope or use a tool belt (don’t carry tools in your hands).
- Never use multiple ladders at the same time, or in conjunction with each other.
- Keep your body centered on the ladder (keep belt buckle between side rails).
- Don’t move a ladder while standing on it.
Ladder injuries are preventable. Human error is the leading cause of ladder injuries. If you plan ahead, use the right ladder for the job, and train workers to use ladders safely these injuries can be prevented. For more information on ladder safety, check out these resources from OSHA, Washington State DOL Ladder Safety Guide, Ask This Old House, and the NIOSH Ladder Safety App.