Many workplace accidents caused by slips, trips, and falls can be prevented. Ladder incidents, which make up roughly 20% of falls that occur in the workplace, are one of the leading causes of occupational injuries according to a 2011 study by the CDC. Ensuring your safety when using a ladder is a smart place to start to avoid an injury that occurs on the job.
The first place to start for ladder safety is with the maintenance of your ladder(s). Ensure your ladders are kept free of oil, grease, wet paint, and other slipping hazards. Ensure ladders rungs are parallel, secure, and not bent or damaged. Inspect your entire ladder for cracks, corrosion, or loose bolts. Check that all ladder feet have slip-resistant pads.
You’ll also want to check that your ladders meet certain standards. Foldout and leaning portable ladders must be able to support at least four times the maximum intended loan while heavy-duty metal and plastic ladders must be able to sustain roughly three times the maximum intended load. (Though it is NOT recommended you ever exceed the maximum load!) Rungs must be shaped so that a person’s foot cannot slide off and must be skid-resistant. Foldout ladders and stepladders are required to have a metal spreader or locking device to hold the front and back sections in an open position when in use.
Selecting the Right Ladder for the Job
Ladder safety also heavily relies on the use of the proper ladder for the job you are performing. There are several different types of ladders and each has their purpose.
Step Ladders: Step ladders are self-supporting, fold-out ladders that contain either front steps on one side or rung on both sides to be climbed.
Extension Ladders: These ladders are straight and need to be leaned against something for support. They consist of two parts: the base and a movable extension that allows users to reach higher.
Folding Ladders: Folding ladders usually have large steps rather than skinny rungs and fold easily when not in use.
Multipurpose Ladders: Multipurpose ladders tend to be a favorite because of their versatility. They can frequently be leaned, self-supporting, and/or extendable for many uses.
Ladder Do’s and Don’t’s
- Don’t stand at the very top of the ladder. The last rung you should be standing on is the second from the top on a stepladder or the fourth rung from the top on an extension ladder.
- Don’t climb a closed stepladder or climb up the back of a stepladder.
- Don’t place the base of an extension ladder too close or too far from the structure you are working on.
- Don’t over-reach or lean to one side while on a ladder.
- Don’t exceed the maximum load capacity.
- Don’t have more than one person on the ladder at once.
- Properly set up and use your ladder according to safety instructions.
- Wear non-slip shoes when using a ladder.
- Haul materials up with a liner rather than carry them up.
- Always climb facing the ladder and with at least three points of contact (both hands and at least one foot, or both feet and at least one hand).
- Use a fiberglass ladder if there is any chance of contact with electricity.
- Set your ladder on firm, level ground and make sure all locking mechanisms click into place.
- Have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder if you are unsure of your stability.
With these simple tips, you can confidently use ladders in the workplace without worrying about any incidents. Stay smart, be careful, and keep your eye on that first step!