SAFETY BY TOM O’CONNOR
First, it is important to understand
the most common causes of ladder-related injuries and fatalities, including
using the wrong ladder, using faulty or
damaged ladders, incorrect ladder placement and not using a ladder properly.
Ladders are almost always composed
of wood, fiberglass or metal (typically
aluminum). Each has an intended use.
For example, a nonconductive ladder
should be used when working on or
near electricity because they are specifically manufactured for use in electrical
work. Similarly, there are ladders made
for a wide range of other tasks. Some
of these are stepladders, single ladders,
articulated ladders, fixed ladders and
There are five categories of duty, or
weight, ratings for various types of work
and workers. These are Type IAA (
extra-heavy-duty industrial), 375 pounds; Type
IA (heavy-duty industrial), 300 pounds;
Type I (heavy-duty industrial), 250
pounds; Type II (medium-duty commercial), 225 pounds; and Type III (light-duty
household), 200 pounds. When determining the appropriate rating, factor in the
weight of any tools, objects and clothing that a worker will use on the ladder.
Weight-capacity ratings are on the label
and should always be adhered to.
Before using any ladder, the user
should inspect it. Periodically, a competent person should also do an inspection.
If any slippery material is on the rungs,
steps or feet, the ladder should not be
used until it has been properly cleaned.
In addition, if there are any indicators
that a ladder is damaged, broken or
unsafe, it is unfit for use and must be
tagged and either removed from service
until it can be repaired to manufacturer
specifications or discarded.
Position a ladder in a location where it
cannot be displaced by other work activities. This means avoiding passageways,
doorways or driveways, unless protected
by barricades or guards. It is imperative that ladders are placed on a stable
and level surface. They should never be
placed on boxes, barrels or other unstable
bases to obtain additional height. It is also
important that the user ensures locks on
the ladder are properly engaged.
Human error is, by far, the leading
cause of ladder-related injuries and fatalities. Prior to using any portable ladder, it is
crucial to read and adhere to any instructions, labels, markings or manufacturer
recommendations. When an individual is
climbing a ladder, he or she must maintain
three-point (two hands and a foot, or two
feet and a hand) contact and try to keep
his or her body near the middle of the
step, always facing the ladder.
A user should avoid, at all costs, reaching or leaning for objects because it can
result in the ladder tipping over. Whenever possible, use the buddy system, one
employee to hold the ladder in place
while the other is working. Working with
a buddy can also be helpful for accessing
tools and equipment.
Only one person is permitted on a ladder at any given time unless the ladder
was designed to support more than one.
Ladders must never be moved or shifted
while a person or equipment is on it, and
under no circumstances is it acceptable
for anyone to use the top rung or step
of a ladder. If a taller ladder is needed
for a particular job, work should not
be attempted on one that is too short.
Ensuring workers use ladders of appro-
priate size can prevent many hazards.
Employers can improve ladder safety
by ensuring all ladders are safe and in
good operating condition. They can
provide employee training on hazards
associated with ladders; safe use, main-
tenance and inspection of ladders; and
Occupational Safety and Health Admin-
istration (OSHA) regulations pertaining
to ladders. They can remind employees
who work in an elevated environment
to be aware of power lines or exposed,
energized electrical equipment.
“Whether working on roofs or scaffolds, climbing ladders or performing
any work from heights, falls can be prevented with the right equipment and
training,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational
Safety and Health.
For more ladder safety information,
An Elevated Threat
IN RECENT YEARS, ladder-related injuries have been on the rise. It is estimated
that more than 90,000 people are hospitalized annually as a result. Additionally, roughly 700 occupational deaths are attributed each year to elevated falls.
Fortunately, most of these accidents can be prevented by following some basic
O’CONNO R is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training
and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and
software for contractors. Reach him at email@example.com. I S T