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Ladder Safety Overview

Learning Objectives

  • Identify common ladder types used in industry
  • Recognize common hazards associated with ladder use
  • Recall requirements and best practices for ladder safety

Available in English

The goal of this lesson is to provide awareness-level instruction on ladder hazards, safe use requirements, and best practices for all employees.

According to the National Safety Council, 175,790 people were injured on ladders severely enough to require a trip to the hospital in 2013. Nearly 20,000 people were injured and 133 died due to falls from a ladder or scaffolding at work, according to Injury Facts 2016. Workers in the construction industry are most at risk.

As simple as using a ladder seems to be, the injury statistics indicate that the ladder is one of the most abused tools we have. Accidents, particularly in the domestic setting, are frequently caused by overreaching or overextending from ladders to complete certain tasks, rather than doing the safe thing—climbing down and moving the ladder to a better access point. The same is also true for the high-risk workforce.

Tips for Portable Ladder Safety

  • Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
  • Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
  • 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 (see diagram).
  • Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
  • Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
  • 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 3 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.
Regulations
  • Subpart D of 29 CFR 1910 (1910.21 - 1910.30)—Walking Working Surfaces