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February 25, 2021

Ladder safety tips

Sean Antolik

Falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. Fortunately these accidents are easily prevented with proper training.

Here is some guidance to equip you with a foundation for safe ladder use:

Inspecting ladders

Before using any ladder take a look for any of the following defects:

  • Loose or missing rungs or cleats
  • Loose nails, bolts, screwsWood splinters or damaged edges
  • Cracked, broken, split, dented, or badly worn rungs, cleats, or side rails
  • Corrosion of metal ladders or metal parts

If you find a ladder in poor condition, take it out of service. If repairs are not feasible, the defective ladder should be removed from the job site and dismanlted in a way that discourages employees from taking it home and exposing themselves to the same risk on their own time.

Using ladders

  • Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
  • Watch for electrical hazards! Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines. Ladders shall have nonconductive side rails if they are used where the worker or the ladder could contact exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
  • Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (step-ladder) as a lean ladder (extension ladder).
  • Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
  • Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
  • Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels or other 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 three feet above the point of support (see diagram). 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 working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface (see diagram).
  • A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.
  • Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder’s load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.

Looking for more help
Contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency safety representative for assistance. We have safety professionals available to help with inspections, training and more.