Jobsite Safety: Ladders
“Falls are the leading cause of death in construction and each year, falls from ladders make up nearly a third of those deaths. These deaths are preventable,” from “Falling Off Ladders Can Kill: Use Them Safely” by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Ladders on jobsites are as common as forks and spoons in a kitchen. No matter the jobsite, ladders are standard equipment, especially in the utilities industry. Yet every year, 4,000 workers are injured from improperly using ladders, causing injuries so serious they miss work or worse; 70 die each year from falls from ladders.1 The basic fact is, if you use a ladder, you’re at risk for falling.
When ladders are used safely and under the right conditions, they are invaluable; unsafe ladder use can be deadly.
How often do you inspect your ladders? Not all defects in a ladder are as obvious as a missing or broken rung. Are the ladder feet intact? Are the rungs cracked but not broken? Does the locking mechanism on a step ladder lock? Is the ladder bent, even slightly? Any time a defect is found, throw the ladder away.
Ladder safety does not just impact the person using the ladder; those walking by are at risk if the ladder isn’t set up properly. If the ladder or the person using it should fall, anyone standing in the area could be injured. To protect passersby, don’t place ladders near doorways and use barriers or orange cones around the bottom of the ladder; that way, they won’t trip over the bottom of the ladder and you won’t have anyone hanging around the bottom of the ladder, at risk for injury.
According to the OSHA, using common sense can help workers avoid many injuries:
- USE THE RIGHT HEIGHT LADDER FOR THE JOB. Each ladder is manufactured for a specific purpose. A step ladder is perfect for reaching inside work areas, while an extension ladder, appropriate in size, makes reaching higher levels safe and easy.
- NEVER STAND ON THE TOP TWO RUNGS of a step ladder or the top four rungs of an extension ladder; standing at the top of a ladder will make it unstable, raising the risk of collapse and fall.
- FULLY EXTEND A STEP LADDER BEFORE CLIMBING ONTO IT. Don’t lean a step ladder against a wall; instead, fully extend the ladder and work from the side if you need to get close to a wall.
- SET THE LADDER BASE ON STABLE GROUND, not on shifting ground, with all feet firmly on the same surface.
- USE PROPER FOOTWEAR. Don’t scale a ladder in flip-flops, open-toed shoeshoes or other footwear inappropriate for a jobsite.
- “Hazard Alert: Ladders” brochure, Center for Construction Research & Training 2013