Did you know more people are injured in falls from ladders than from any other elevated surface? That includes roofs, scaffolds, balconies, and even stairs. We take portable ladders for granted because they’re so easy to use. If you set the ladder up correctly and know how to work safely when you’re on a ladder, you can be pretty confident that it won’t let you down. So why do people fall from ladders?
Most falls happen because people either select the wrong type of ladder for their job, or they set up the ladder improperly and it shifts or slips unexpectedly. (Come on, if you’ve ever done a job around the house you know this has probably happened to you!) People also fall when they’re not working safely on the ladder: their foot slips, they lose their balance, they overreach, or something knocks the ladder over. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers some tips for using portable ladders so you can safely get the job done, whether you’re working around the house or on the job.
Setting up your ladder:
- Move the ladder near your work. Get help if it is too difficult to handle alone.
- Make sure there are no electrical wires overhead.
- Set up the ladder on a level surface or secure it so it cannot be displaced.
- Lock the spreaders on a stepladder. Secure the lock assembly on extension ladders.
- Use traffic cones or other barriers to protect the base of the ladder if vehicles or pedestrians could strike it.
How to work safely on your ladder:
- Wear shoes that have non-slip soles and make sure they are free of mud, oil, or anything else slippery.
- Climb facing the ladder. Center your body between the rails and keep your hips square to the rungs. Hold the side rails with both hands; you have a better chance of avoiding a fall if a rung breaks or you miss a step.
- Hold the ladder with one hand and work with the other hand whenever possible.
- Attach light, compact tools or materials to the ladder or to yourself.
- Raise and lower heavy, awkward loads with a hand line or a hoist.
Best practices when using your ladder:
- The top step of a stepladder should never be used as a step.
- Inspect ladders periodically for defects and after any occurrence that could damage them. Do not use ladders that are missing steps, rungs, cleats, or have broken side rails or other faulty parts.
- Do not carry objects that could cause you or the ladder to lose balance.
- Do not load ladders beyond the manufacturer’s duty rating.
- If using a ladder on a slippery surface, make sure the ladder is equipped with anti-slip footings.
- Ladders should not be moved, shifted, or extended when they are occupied.
- Extension ladders should be placed so that the working length of the ladder is four times the horizontal distance from the ladder’s base to the structure — a 4:1 ratio.
Whether around the home or on the job, take a few minutes to make sure your ladder is sturdy and safe to use before climbing up. After all, your project won’t complete itself if you’re lying on the couch recovering from a fall! For more safety tips on your at-home weekend project, read our blog post Don’t Let Weekend Warriors Become the Weekend Wounded.