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March 2, 2021

Ladder safety

Michael Knox, Mark Wandersee, Chad Price

Ladders are a tool that are seen on every construction site, in every manufacturing or retail facility and every home owner’s garage.  Ladders are a useful tool required to accomplish many jobs, however the ladder safety is often overlooked due to its frequent and common occurrence in our daily lives.  This month is National Ladder Safety Month and we will focus on safety best practices.

Ladder Injury Statistics:

  • According to the World Health Organization the U.S. leads the way in ladder injuries and deaths, with over 100,000 Emergency room visits and 300 deaths annually
  • Most ladder deaths are from 10’ or less
  • 90 percent of ladder injuries occur in the home
  • Ladders are in the Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards for FY19

Ladders and Ladder Safety:

There are many different types of ladders and each has their specific purpose and safety measures to consider before climbing.  The two most common ladders are the step ladder and the extension ladder.

Step Ladder:

The step ladder is used for shorter distance climbs and has two sides for stabilization so the ladder can be used without having a wall or solid surface to lean against.  Important safety precautions with a step ladder are to ensure the spreaders are fully extended and locked, all four feet are on level ground, and no climbing or standing on the top step or top cap.

Extension Ladder:

The extension ladder is used for reaching higher elevations such as roofs. The extension ladder requires a stable and sturdy object to lean the ladder against. Important safety precautions include the 4:1 rule (for every 4 feet of rise in ladder the feet should be placed 1 foot away from the structure).  The feet should be placed on level ground and the ladder should not be leaning in either direction.  If you are using the ladder to access a roof or another level, the top three rungs should extend above the level and the ladder should be secured to ensure it does not shift when entering and exiting.  

General Ladder Safety: 

  • A competent person must always ensure the ladder is in good working order before climbing.  A thorough inspection of the ladder should be conducted to ensure that all rungs and rivet points are in good working order, there are not cracks, breaks, dents, or warping in any side rails or rungs, as this will decrease the strength of the ladder.
  • Before setting a ladder check to ensure there are no hazards such as overhead power lines.  If there are, ladders must be kept 10 feet away from any power line.
  • Do not place a ladder on boxes, other platforms, or in front of a door.
  • ALWAYS face the ladder when ascending and descending.
  • Use three points of contact at all times on the ladder.
  • Do not overextend to either side while on a ladder.  If you can’t reach the point of operation, climb down and reposition the ladder.
  • Keep the ladder and all rungs clean of dirt, oil, grease and other material that could cause slipping while in use.
  • Know the duty rating of the ladder and consider the total weight, user plus tools plus material to ensure you do not exceed the maximum weight limit.  This can be found on the specifications label.  This label shall be on every ladder and clearly readable (free from dirt, paint…).
  • If a ladder is not in good working order and must be discarded it should be completely destroyed before be tossed in waste to prevent anyone else from attempting to salvage it and injure themselves in the process.

Ladder Last:

A growing trend you may hear over the coming months is “Ladders Last”. This is an expression, policy, or campaign that organizations and companies are using to ensure proper safety around falls on their jobsites. The meaning is exactly how it sounds; make ladders the last option for working at heights. This does not eliminate ladders completely, but rather train employees to think of alternative options such as lifts, scaffolds, or portable stairs. It could be a good idea to consider this policy at your company.

We highly encourage you to share this information with all employees regardless of position due to the likelihood of ladder use at home as well as work. If you would like any assistance creating, training or implementing a ladder safety policy, please reach out to our Loss Control team.

Additional information on Ladder Safety: