Ladders are common pieces of equipment – most homes and offices have them as they are useful from changing out light bulbs to cleaning gutters. What else is quite common? Falls from ladders! As we mentioned in our last blog, American Ladder Institute’s Ladder Safety Program Explained, fall protection is OSHA’s number one repeat offender on the yearly Top Ten Violations list and March is National Ladder Safety Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 people are treated annually for ladder-related accidents. Understanding and communicating safe ladder practices are very important to keep your employees safe both at work and at home, and may save you from costly OSHA fines from failing to follow proper ladder safety protocol.
OSHA provides some helpful tips to keep in mind when using a ladder:
• Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
• 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.
• 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 (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.
• 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.
As an employer, it’s important to train your team to take ladder safety seriously. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a ladder safety app for mobile devices. Another useful tip is to create a ladder safety checklist to review before each use, and have that checklist printed out and with the ladders to remind your team to review.