All tools have safety considerations, and a ladder is no different. However, when you regularly use a ladder, you may begin to take ladder safety for granted. Falls are a leading cause of injuries and fatalities in the workplace and proper ladder safety is essential. This guide will take you through picking the right ladder, the proper technique for placing and climbing the ladder, and how to conduct maintenance checks to ensure ladders remain safe to use.
Choosing A Ladder
Ladders come in three different types:
- Type I: Industrial. These are heavy-duty ladders with a load capacity of up to 250 pounds.
- Type II: Commercial. These are medium-duty ladders with a load capacity of up to 225 pounds often used for painting and related tasks.
- Type III: Household. These are light-duty ladders with a load capacity of up to 200 pounds.
You should calculate load by considering your weight in clothing plus the weight of any tools and materials you are carrying.
When choosing a ladder, you also need to take material into account. Although aluminum ladders are the most durable, as conductors they are unsuitable for use around electricity. Wood is a non-conductor but may rot if it gets wet. Fiberglass is the best option if you are looking for both durability and non-conductivity, however it is also the most expensive.
Next, think about height. On an extension ladder, you will have a reach of approximately 1 inch lower than length of the ladder. On a stepladder, expect a reach of around 4 feet above the stepladder’s height.
How To Use A Ladder
- Set up the ladder according to the included safety instructions and warnings.
- Wear shoes with non-slip soles.
- Before beginning to climb, align your body with the ladder, keeping your belt buckle between the rails, and firmly grip the rails with both hands.
- Face the ladder as you climb, moving one step at a time. Secure one foot before moving the other.
- If you are using a heavy ladder, ask another person to hold it while you are climbing or standing atop it.
- Whenever possible, use a line to haul up materials instead of carrying them up the extension ladder. If you need to carry something, take extra care to avoid losing your balance or tipping the ladder.
Avoiding Dangerous Mistakes
- Never use a ladder when you feel dizzy, tired, or otherwise unable to safely manage the task.
- Always open a stepladder fully before climbing, and use its front. The stepladder top is not a seat.
- Place the base of an extension ladder at a safe distance from the building or wall.
- Never go beyond the penultimate step on a stepladder nor the fourth rung from the top on an extension ladder.
- Only one person may use a single-sided stepladder or extension ladder at a time.
- Always move the ladder to continue with a task rather than leaning to your side. Dismount before adjusting the ladder’s position.
Ladder Safety Maintenance
- Regularly inspect ladders for breaks in the joints and latches.
- Check for cracks, broken welds, and rough spots in aluminum ladders.
- Look for cracked wood, splinters, and rotten or broken hardware in wood ladders. Never paint wood ladders as this can conceal cracks, rot, or other imperfections.
- Fiberglass ladders come coated in a layer of clear sealant. If you notice any damage, report it and do not use it.