Ladder Safety Part 2: Does your Ladder Safety Training Get High Marks?

Worker wearing fall harness climbing a ladder

Training, training, and more training. Employees receive an enormous amount of communication and training throughout their employment, including safety training to reinforce expected behaviors that prevent serious or even fatal injury.


OSHA states that about 40% of fatal falls occur from a distance of less than 15 feet, the height of the average single-story house. Ladder usage, regardless of industry, is a high-risk task that should be part of any new or existing employee training plan. 

Most falls from ladders can be avoided by using the proper equipment for the job, but it takes more than the right ladder to avoid injury. According to the biannual Ladder Safety Training and Citations Report, participating organizations were asked why OSHA citations associated with ladders hadn’t decreased over the previous two years. Human error (61%), poor leadership oversight (27%), and “not required / inadequate training frequency” (26%) were the most frequent causes. Although awareness of these issues exists, we have failed to make significant improvements to drive down citations and reduce injury rates. Of these top 3 responses, two -- better supervision and routine training -- are within our immediate control. Effective leadership and basic safety management principles require us to think of ladder safety as more than a “checkbox” training; it’s not all just “common sense”.

Employers are required to provide formal training prior to their employees using ladders, or when they’re exposed to fall hazards as defined per industry by OSHA. With the most recent update to OSHA’s walking and working surfaces standard, specific new training requirements are defined for the inspection and use of ladders, as well as for recognizing and controlling fall hazards [1910.30]. 

Recognition of fall hazards is a key skill to maintain safety for employees using ladders. While working at elevated heights, additional fall prevention controls may be required depending on height or if employees are unable to maintain three points of contact (Ladder Safety Part 1-Three Points of Contact). Additional fall prevention controls include nets, guardrails, or a traditional personal fall arrest system such as a five-point harness with appropriate lanyard and anchor point.

Training effectiveness is also critical to ensuring worksite safety at elevated height. According to the National Learning Institute's learning pyramid, increasing engagement can improve training retention by up to 75%. Engagement can be achieved simply by including a hands-on activity such as completing an inspection, practice selection, set-up and transportation of ladders, and practicing, assessing and recognizing relevant fall hazards. Remember, employers are not only responsible for educating employees, they also must provide oversight and accountability to ensure the consistent use of expected safe work practices. 

Specifically, as part of your ladder safety training, employers must ensure: 

  • workers can properly select ladders based on environment and task;
  • carrying an object does not impede workers’ control and balance, such as struggling to maintain control or balance on a ladder;
  • workers maintain three-points of contact and face the ladder when ascending and descending;
  • weight and size of tools and other items used are such that workers can maintain their balance and grasp the ladder while carrying the item in that hand;
  • workers can identify when they need to use other methods to move items while climbing ladders, such as backpacks, making multiple climbs, or lifting items using ropes or mechanical solutions;
  • workers know what items they can and cannot carry while climbing ladders;
  • methods for lifting items do not present additional fall hazards; and
  • when to use additional fall prevention or protection controls.

Ladders are a common tool found in most workplaces but are often overlooked in safety programs despite the significant potential for injury and death. Employers who provide regular effective training and oversight for ladder use can reduce these risks, prevent injuries to employees and potentially avoid costly OSHA citations.


MEMIC policy holders have access to a wealth of ladder safety resources including selection guide, training videos, and safety checklists. Contact your safety consultant for more information.


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