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Ladder Risks

Leaving the Ladder

Problem

Workers often need to leave the ladder to access their work. Most often, they extend the ladder just one or two rungs past the edge of the roof. They may also step to the left or right of the ladder to access the roof or working surface. Both of these increase the risks of the ladder slipping or the worker falling.

Solution

Using ladder extenders ensure the ladder is the minimum 36 inches past the edge of the roof per OSHA regulations. This gives the worker something to hold on to when leaving the ladder. It also makes it hard to slide left or right. The handles move out to allow the worker to pass through them rather than around them. This keep the center of mass on top of the ladder rather than moving it outside the edge when stepping to the right. The extenders mitigate the risk of the ladder sliding and the worker from falling off. Ladders also need to be tied off when leaving the ladder to stop the ladder from falling in emergencies. 

Ladder Height

Problem

Many residential homes and commercial building extend three stories or more. To access these, many workers add additional stack ladders to reach these high surfaces. Or, in extreme, cases, tie two extendable ladders to each other. This create additional pressure on joints or ties of the ladders and increases the risk of the ladders breaking. In addition, it make the ladder less stable at such a height. 

Solution

All ladders come with manufacturer specifications on weight and height. Look at these specifications for the ladder on purchase and ensure they are at least 36 inches above what you need, or use arm extenders. Stack, or sectional, ladders have an OSHA regulation of no more than 21 feet from top to bottom. This allows for a maximum of four, six foot sections, to reach a total of 21 feet. Remember, stack ladders have a one foot over lap between each section. 

Problem

When on a ladder, a worker often needs to bring a tool with them, or reach off the ladder to complete a task. When doing this, they may need both hands which increases the risk of a fall. In addition, they may increase the risk of twisting the ladder or taking it down with them. 

Solution

Using a harness and a lanyard or a third hand adds another points of contact for the worker. This device frees up both hands to allow the worker reach off the ladder and complete their tasks. As long as the device is clipped in, both hands can be used. When using a third hand, one should use a clamp or tie to secure the ladder to the building. This will ensure a slip doesn’t bring the ladder down with the worker.

Unstable Top

Problem

Work on a ladder often extends past the width of the ladder itself. As a worker reaches towards a window, gutter, or any object, they move the center of mass toward the edge of the ladder. This creates a possibility for the ladder to slide, twist, or leave the surface it is resting on. When any of these happen, the worker is at a high risk of falling off the ladder.

Solution

Using a ladder stabilizer like the one shown in the photo reduces the risk of the ladder falling. The extendable arms add two contact points further away from the ladder reducing the possibility of sliding or twisting. When used in conjunction with the other ladder safety devices, the worker can work away from the ladder with less risk of falling. 

Unstable Base

Problem

On the job conditions are never perfect. Whether its water from a leaky fittings, a grassy surface, or stairs that get in your way, there are numerous risks when using a ladder. A slippery or uneven base can cause the ladder to fall out from underneath a worker. If this happens, a worker if put at great risk of injury. 

Solution

In order to avoid this, ladder levelers and base can be used to secure the ladder. Use levers to help when the base is uneven. Set them at different height to accommodate stairs or hill and keep the ladder upright. If the base is slippery, looks feet with grips or a stopper to keep the ladder from sliding out from underneath you. 

Dropped Tools

Problem

Tools are a necessity when on the job. If you bring up a hand too it also has a risk of falling and injuring anyone below. This can happen when climbing the ladder (don’t forget three points of contact!),  or when working when on the ladder as well. Communication devices like radios or cell phones pose a risk as well. 

Solution

Tool bungees and pouches should be used to mitigate the risk of a tool falling on anyone or anything below. Tool bungees should be used on all frequently used items such as squeegees, mops, drills, or any hand tools. Pouches are recommended for any infrequently used small devices.  These devices need to be in use at all time on the ladder, not only when climbing.