Safety is our top concern when working on a ladder. Falls from heights including ladders are a leading cause of workplace fatalities. By following the basic rules of ladder safety and having a fall prevention plan in place, serious accidents can be eliminated or substantially reduced.
Five basic rules for ladder safety
1. Use the right ladder for the job:
It is important to choose a ladder that has the proper load capacity, type, and height for the job. Consider your own weight as well as the weight of your equipment, tools, and materials. The ladder must be tall enough to work from without standing on the top two steps of the ladder. Extension ladders must also extend 3 feet above the landing to provide safe access on and off the ladder.
2. Inspect the ladder before and after use:
- Check the ladder’s stability.
- Ensure all screws, bolts, braces, and hinges are tight and the base of the ladder is on flat, stable, and secure ground.
- Look for loose or damaged rungs, steps, side rails, supports, and any other structural damage.
- Check for any dirt, grease, or paint that could cause slips and falls.
- Remove ladders with structural damage from service.
- Your ladder should not be near electrical wiring.
- Make sure all safety and warning labels are attached and are legible.
- Check for any new structural damage to the steps, side rails, rungs, and supports.
- Check for any bends and any loosened screws, hinges, and bolts.
- Recheck the ladder’s stability.
3. Set the ladder up correctly:
- When using a portable ladder, make sure it is placed on a level surface and it has non-slip base pads. Protect the base of ladder with a barricade in high-traffic areas. Be sure to lock or block any nearby doors that open toward you. If you’re using a stepladder, ensure it is fully open before use.
- A straight ladder should be placed at a four-to-one ratio, which means the base should be 1 foot away from the wall or vertical surface for every 4 feet of height to the point of support. When climbing onto a roof or platform from a ladder, the ladder must extend at least 3 feet above the edge and be tied off to prevent displacement.
4. Climb and descend the ladder with caution:
- Stay near the middle and face the ladder while holding onto the side rails and maintain three points of contact. Carry your tools on a belt or hoist and always keep at least three limbs on the ladder. Look for overhead power lines before handling or climbing a ladder.
5. Be safe and use common sense when using a ladder:
- Do not lean outside the ladder rails.
- Keep the ladder and the surrounding area free of clutter.
- Never use a ladder for something other than its intended purpose.
- Never use a ladder horizontally like a platform.
- Do not carry loads that prevent you from maintaining three points of contact.
- Do not stand on the top step or the top cap, and do not overload your ladder.
- Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases to increase working height.
- Do not move or shift a ladder with a person or equipment on the ladder.
Explore previous editions of On the Job Safety with EE.