OSHA requires workers to be able to recognize and minimize hazards related to ladders. OSHA ladder safety standards are sixth within the top 10 most frequently cited. When working with ladders it is important to remember that they have great potential for hazard and you should do everything within your power to prevent those hazards.
Behavioral hazard prevention
The foundation of ladder safety is choosing the right ladder. When choosing a ladder consider the basics of the task at hand. Which style ladder is right? How high should the ladder reach? How much weight is involved? Which material is right?
Choosing the right ladder:
- Which style? The first step in ensuring the safest use of a ladder is choosing the right style. There are many different types of ladders out there and choosing the right one is essential. Some common ladders are single section, platform, trestle, step and extension, with step and extension being the most common.
Extension vs. Step
Extension ladder: a non-self-supporting portable ladder adjustable in length. Consists of a trestle ladder base and vertically adjustable extension sections, with a suitable means for locking the ladders together.
Stepladder: a self-supporting portable ladder, nonadjustable in length with flat steps and hinged base.
- How high? The maximum safe reaching height for any person is approximately 4 feet higher than the height of the ladder. A typical person can safely reach an 8 foot ceiling on a 4 foot ladder.
- How heavy? Each ladder can handle a specific amount of weight. That limit is the duty rating. The workers weight, plus their clothing, ppe and equipment must be less than the specific duty rating of the ladder being used.
- Which material? When deciding on a material consider ladder location. Choose material based on things such as whether or not electrical wires will be present. Characteristics of each material make them suitable for certain tasks and not others.
Tips for ladder safety
Ladders pose potential for great risk, especially when used incorrectly. Following ladder safety precautions and standards can help to avoid accidents and injuries.
Always inspect ladders for defects before each use. Tag and remove defected ladders from service immediately. If inspected ladders are safe then continue use. Always safely secure and place ladders on a firm, solid surface, avoiding wet areas. Never lean a ladder against an unstable surface such as a window. When transporting, carry a ladder with the front end slightly higher than the back and angled at 75 degrees. Secure ladders to ladder racks or the truck bed to safely transport.
Once you reach the roof line, it is a good idea to use fall protection. Use our fall protection guide for a primer on the best ways that workers can prevent injury from falls.