Ladder Safety


There is absolutely no reason for anybody to get hurt, disabled, or killed while using a ladder or scaffolding. Yet it happens every day. Somebody steps on the safety label that says, “This is not a step!” and ends up with a broken leg. Another worker puts a rock under one of the legs because the ladder is just not quite stable enough. On the way to the hospital grimacing in pain with a broken arm they state “maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.” On another job, a guy reaches out just a bit to far and … well… he’s no longer with us. Virtually every single ladder or scaffolding accident could and should have been prevented. It only takes a little bit of common sense, SAFETY SENSE, to prevent an accident from occurring. Stick to the following simple rules to ensure that you or a co-worker is never injured while using a ladder or scaffolding.

  1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT LADDER: Always select a ladder which is the correct length to safely reach the working height. Also ensure that the ladder is of the correct duty or weight rating. The combined weight of the user, their tools, and materials should NEVER exceed the rating of the ladder. Most ladders are available with weight ratings of 200 to 300 lbs. Make sure you get the right one for your needs.

  2. CHECK THE CONDITION OF THE LADDER: Read all the labels on the ladder then check for split or cracked side rails, missing or broken rungs, loose rungs, or other weaknesses.  Also check for splinters or sharp edges.

  3. PLACE THE LADDER/SCAFFOLDING WITH YOUR SAFETY IN MIND: Use your head and think safety before you setup the ladder/scaffolding. Make sure it has firm footing and in the case of a ladder that it’s feet are one quarter the length of the ladder away from the upright surface to be climbed. Don’t use a stepladder as a single ladder. If you use a stepladder, make sure it is fully open with the spreaders properly locked.

  4. CLIMB THE LADDER CAREFULLY: Keep your mind on where you are and what you        are doing. Wear the proper shoes with good soles and that are free from grease or mud.      Always face the ladder and use both hands when climbing up or down. Don’t carry your       tools or materials: raise and lower them with a hand line. Don’t have someone toss them up       to you or drop your tools when you are finished. If you don’t feel well, don’t climb a ladder. Always climb and work from the center of the ladder. Don’t climb the back side of a ladder and never stand on top of it.                             

  5. NEVER OVERREACH! MOVE THE LADDER INSTEAD: Breaking this one simple rule causes more accidents than you can possibly imagine.

  6. TIE OFF THE LADDER: Once you have climbed to your working height, tie-off the ladder and use a safety belt.

  7. TAKE CARE OF YOUR LADDERS & SCAFFOLDING: When you have finished using ladders and/or scaffolding, put them back where they belongs. Always keep them clean and free of excess materials. Store them in a safe and dry place, out of direct sunlight and the elements. Make sure ladders and scaffolding are tied down during transit. Never paint a wooden ladder, it will cover up imperfections. You can however use clear wood preservatives to protect it.

  8. The top of the ladder should never extend more than three or four feet above its upper support. Never step on a rung above the upper support since it is liable to make the base of the ladder “kick out.”

  9. Wall grips on tops of risers are useful to prevent side slipping when the ladder’s leaning against a smooth surface. The top and bottom of the ladder should be secured to prevent shifting. Safety feet, cleats, lashing, etc. can be used to make portable ladders secure.

  10. When placing a ladder make sure you don’t rest it against a sash or windowpane. A board securely fastened (not nailed) across the top of the ladder will provide solid bearing at each side of the window. 

  11. If you must rest a ladder against a pole or round column, be sure the upper end of the ladder is firm so it won’t slip or cause the ladder to fall. When ladders are used in this way, they are less likely to sway orslip if the upper end is equipped with a webbing rung or similar material.

  12. When carrying a ladder, balance it on your shoulder near the center. Keep the front end of the ladder high enough to clear the top of anybody’s head and the back end close to the ground. Be extra careful and keep your mind on where the ladder is in relation to the people and objects around you as you carry it. Pay particular attention when you approach passageways and doorways or any place where your view is obstructed.

Safety & Scaffolds

It is safe to assume that just about everybody has heard of a scaffolding accident or two. In many of those cases, faulty design and inadequate construction of the scaffolding were partial causes, but in most cases, poor maintenance and improper use caused scaffold accidents. To help keep your scaffolds safe, follow these simple procedures:

  1. Inspect the scaffolds before each use of them. Check the guard rails, connectors, fastening, footing, tie-ins, and bracing.

  2. Keep platforms closely boarded, fenced, and securely fastened.

  3. Don’t stockpile materials on the scaffolds; remove all materials and tools at the end of the use of the scaffold.

  4. Never overload scaffolds. Place materials being used over ledger and bearer points to minimize platform loading.

  5. Don’t work on scaffolds during storms or high winds and clear all ice and snow form the platforms before using them.

  6. Protect the scaffolds: don’t bump or strike against the scaffolds with vehicles or materials and control hoisted material from the ground with taglines.

  7. Keep the platforms and areas around the scaffold cleared of debris and unneeded equipment, material and other hazards that could cause a worker to trip or fall.

Ladders and scaffolding are very important tools when working off of the ground. They are also some of the most unforgiving if misused or mistreated; so use them safely and wisely. 

Contact OMAG Loss Control Services if you have questions or suggestions for other topics related to Municipal Workplace Safety Issues. 1 (800) 234-9461 or email kprichard@omag.org.

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