Using Ladders Safely

Jun 28, 2015

Ladder use and safety is generally taken for granted by many individuals, whether at home or at work.  Not many people who use ladders to do something think they will fall. Thoughts such as "I can reach it...” or “I don’t need that long of a ladder to do the job…” are very common in industry.

However, many injuries (from minor falls to fatalities) have occurred from improper use of ladders, and still occur to this day. Knowing how to safely use a ladders is important to maintain health, safety and well-being at work and at home; ladder accidents are preventable if individuals just simply follow basic safety precautions.

Here are a few ladder safety tips and tricks:

  1. Use the “right” ladder to accomplish the job. For instance, don’t use metal ladders if you are performing work involving electrical hazards.
  2. Use the ladder for its intended purpose.  For example, don’t use a folded step ladder leaned against a wall to gain access to an elevated area. Use an extension ladder, or fully extend and lock the step ladder, and place it parallel to the required work area.
  3. Use ladders that are in good condition.  Broken or damaged ladders are not safe to use, even for a “few minutes.”
  4. Inspect your ladder before you use it. Identify any damaged or broken parts. If the ladder is damaged, do not use it and obtain a good condition, safe replacement.
  5. Set up your ladder on stable, even, level and solid surfaces.  Do not “prop” or level off your ladder base with items such as insulation, wood pallets, foam, wood scraps etc.
  6. Secure and “lock” your ladders.  For step ladders, ensure legs are fully extended and locked into position. For extension ladders, ensure proper overlap between the top and bottom sections of the ladder, and ensure locking mechanisms are used and are in place.
  7. Where practical and possible, tie off your ladder at the to and bottom, and/or use ladders with manufacturer provided lateral stability equipment.
  8. When climbing and working on the ladder, maintain three-point contact at all times, and keep your centre of gravity within the footprint (e.g. side rails, legs) of the ladder (to avoid tipping over).
  9. If using an extension ladder to gain access to an elevated work area, ensure the side rails extended at least one (1) metre (three (3) feet) above the uppermost work area or platform.
  10. Ensure extension ladders are properly angles at 4:1 slope/ratio (4 up, 1 out).
  11. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions and specifications; never use the top two rungs of any ladder as a step or working surface. If you need to get more height to perform your work, obtain another ladder of sufficient length.
  12. Conduct only light to moderate duty tasks (e.g. inspections, painting etc.) on ladders.  Avoid heavier duty tasks that could lead to inadvertent falls from the ladder.
  13. Use fall protection systems and equipment if you are conducting tasks on a ladder at or over 10 feet in height, or less than 10 feet if there are unusual risks of injury below your ladder.

By following the above ladder safety precautions, individuals can greatly reduce the incidences of falls and potential injury.

About Craig Yee

Craig Yee is an Industrial Hygienist and Principal of OHS Global Risk Solutions. He earned his Masters Degree in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene at the University of British Columbia. He has over 12 years of direct experience in the hygiene, health and safety industry in both public and private sectors. You can connect with him on Google+.

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