Loss Control Insights
Don’t Fall for These Ladder Mistakes
Ladders— including step ladders, extension ladders and attached climbing ladders—are an essential tool in most organizations. For such a simple staple, ladders have a deadly reputation, with more than 20,000 ladder-related, on-the-job injuries and 150 worker fatalities in 2015. EMC Senior Risk Improvement Representative Case Doorn lays the blame on common mistakes that many ladder-climbers make. Here are the most common ladder-related OSHA citations in 2016:
- When ladders are used to access an area above the floor (such as a roof) the ladder side rails should extend at least 3 feet above the landing surface or be attached to a rigid support with a grab bar (450 citations)
- Ladders should be used only for the purpose they are made for (333 citations)
- Never use the top rung of the ladder as a step (219 citations)
- If a ladder has structural defects, it must be pulled out of service until it’s fixed or replaced, and should also be marked with a Do Not Use (or similar) tag (108 citations)
- Use ladders on stable or level surfaces or secure the ladder to prevent tipping (79 citations)
Out in the field, Case sees other common mistakes in ladder use and handling.
- Climbing the ladder incorrectly. “Having three points of contact is a basic stability rule,” he says. It’s easy to understand—keep three of your four arms and legs on the ladder at all times, moving one leg or hand at a time as you climb up or down.”
- Not securing the ladder in the correct spot. Follow the four-to-one ratio. For every four feet of height, the base of the ladder should be one foot away from the support. For example, if your ladder is resting on a wall 16 feet from the ground, the base of your ladder should be 4 feet away from the wall.
- Carrying extra equipment and tools. All carry-ons should be secured in your tool belt or lifted to the landing spot in a bucket.
- Choosing the wrong type of ladder for the job. For example, a stepladder may be appropriate for painting a low ceiling where the ladder will be positioned in the middle of the room, rather than against a wall. In addition, you’ll need to determine the duty rating and load limits before climbing onto the ladder to start the job.
- Using a ladder instead of a more appropriate type of lift for the job. Case finds it surprising that ladder accidents have increased in the recent past, “Many companies have moved on from ladders to other technologies such as a telescoping boom, scissor lift or scaffolding, which potentially offer greater safety,” he says.
- Forgetting small day-to-day details. Case mentions inspecting the ladder before each use and checking weight capacities, including the person’s weight plus the weight of tools in the belt.
One Rung at a Time
For assistance in choosing the correct ladder for your tasks, training workers on ladder safety, and more information about ladders, check out these resources.
- OSHA Fact Sheet—Reducing Falls in Construction: Safe Use of Stepladders
- OSHA Fact Sheet—Reducing Falls in Construction: Safe Use of Extension Ladders