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Loss Control Insights

Ladder Safety in Cold Weather

Four ladder safety tips

Working on a ladder presents potential safety risks at any time of the year, but the likelihood of an accident increases during the winter months. Wet or frozen ground, ice or snow covered rungs, and heavy clothing can make any job on a ladder more challenging. According to a report from the Consumer Public Safety Commission, more than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment for ladder-related injuries every year. A majority of those injuries are caused by failure to take precautions when using a ladder during the winter months. 

“It’s not so much about learning and adopting new ladder safety habits as it is about being more diligent about the precautions to take anytime you work on a ladder,”  comments EMC Senior Risk Improvement Consultant Tammy Swenson. “For example,  with snow and ice covered ground, workers need to pay more attention to the surface on which the ladder is placed,” explains Swenson. She also stresses the need to check extension ladders that have been left out overnight in cold weather to ensure they are safe to use.

Swenson sees winter as a good time to refresh your ladder safety skills. The following are some of the basic ladder safety tips Swenson encourages you to share with your staff:

  • Avoid electrical hazards and be aware of overhead electrical lines
  • Always inspect the ladder prior to using it
  • Never work from the top of the ladder or the rung right below the top
  • Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder (e.g., two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand)
  • Always face the ladder while climbing and descending
  • Only use the ladder and appropriate accessories for their designed purposes
  • Make sure ladder steps/rungs are free of slippery material
  • Make sure the ladder is on a stable and level surface
  • Don’t place ladders on boxes, barrels or any unstable base to obtain additional height
  • Maintain proper angle ratio of a 4:1 height to base ratio
  • Make sure the ladder is placed in an area where it won’t get knocked over
  • Don’t exceed the maximum load rating of the ladder
  • Make sure extension ladders extend three feet above the point of support

In addition to these tips, Swenson recommends the following ladder safety resources available in the Loss Control section of EMC’s website: