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Reducing Risk, Protecting People

How to Increase Ladder Safety in the Workplace

Posted by Clarion Safety Systems | 21st Mar 2022

What is National Ladder Safety Month?
Every year over 100 people die in ladder-related accidents, and thousands suffer disabling injuries. OSHA has even listed ladders as their 3rd most common safety violation in 2021. As safety professionals, now is an opportunity to join the American Ladder Institute’s (ALI) campaign by participating in National Ladder Safety Month in March. This important event was designed to raise awareness of ladder safety and to decrease the number of ladder-related injuries and fatalities.

ALI is a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting safe ladder use. It’s comprised of members from the U.S. and Canada who are ladder manufacturers and manufacturers of ladder components. ALI is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved developer of ladder safety standards.

Awareness campaigns, like National Ladder Safety Month, offer a great opportunity to safety management, business owners, and manufacturers to highlight the importance and commitment the organization has to worker safety. It doesn’t take a lot of time, money or resources to participate. At minimum, small considerations that can make an impact include an email from management to staff, a brief safety meeting, or a sign in a high traffic meeting area.

ALI states that they believe that ladder accidents are preventable, but without better safety planning, training, and continuous innovation in product design, we’ll continue to see far too many fatalities.

National Ladder Safety Month Objectives
The main goals of National Ladder Safety Month include the following:

  • Decrease number of ladder-related injuries and fatalities.
  • Increase the number of ladder safety training certificates issued by ALI.
  • Lower the rankings of ladder-related safety citations on OSHA’s yearly “Top 10 Citations List”.
  • Increase the number of in-person ladder trainings.
  • Increase the number of companies and individuals that inspect and properly dispose of old, damaged, or obsolete ladders.

OSHA’s Regulations on Ladder Safety
OSHA’s standard 1926.1053 details its requirements for ladder usage in the workplace. A few of the key points to keep in mind are as follows:

  • Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
  • Avoid electrical hazards by being mindful of overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged or has any slippery (oil, grease, wet paint) material on it, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
  • Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position, also make sure that if using an extension ladder that all locks are engaged.
  • Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
  • Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
  • Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder's load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.

How to Inspect a Ladder Before Use
Ladders should always be inspected before use, especially if they’re brand new to the workplace. One should always check for damage before using any ladder. This is very important for ladders that have fallen or have been dropped before using again. It is always best to conduct your inspection before you leave for the job site to ensure that no corners are cut and mitigate additional time spent.

1. Begin at the bottom, making sure the feet are not broken or malfunctioning and that the slip-resistant pads are secure.

2. Inspect the ladder for cracks, bends, and splits on side rails, rungs, and steps.

3. Check all rung/step-to-side rail connections, as well as hardware, fittings, and accessories. Make sure both rung locks are in working order. Rungs are loose if they can be moved by hand.

4. Test the rope and pulley. Look for fraying of the rope and smooth operation.

5. All pivotal connections and the rung-lock should be well-lubricated.

6. All bolts and rivets should be secure. Never use a ladder if any bolts or rivets are missing of if the joints between the steps (or rungs) and the side rails are not tight.

7. Make sure the ladder (particularly the steps and rungs) is free of foreign materials such as oil and grease.

8. Make sure that there are no missing or faded identification labels on the ladders.

After inspecting ladders, unsafe ones should always be marked by using a damaged-ladder tag. If a ladder cannot be repaired safely by an authorized repair person, then it should be destroyed in a way that makes it unable to be used.

How to Select the Right Ladder
ANSI has developed a system for Safety in the Construction, Care, and Use of Ladders – known as ANSI ASC A14. Typically the ratings are determined based on the amount of weight that can be safely held on a ladder. This maximum weight is the combined weight of the user and the items the user is carrying or holding. Selecting a ladder should be based on the following types:

Type I Ladders: A ladder rated as a Type I ladder will hold up to 250 pounds. It’s best for any user looking to carry lightweight items up and down the ladder. Type I ladders can include multi-purpose ladders, stepladders and some attic ladders.

Type II Ladders:
A Type II ladder will support up to 225 pounds and they are meant for those carrying nothing or very light weight items up and down the ladder.

Type III Ladders: The lowest rating from ANSI is a Type III ladder, which can hold up to 200 pounds. These are best for those jobs not requiring anything to be carried up and down the ladder.

Type IA Ladders: When you need a heavy duty ladder, it will be rated with an “A” or “AA” added to the Type I rating. The Type IA rating will support up to 300 pounds and allows the user to carry many heavy items up and down the ladder. Some will even hold two people at the same time. If you’re a contractor or working in construction, this is the ANSI rating you’ll likely choose.

Type IAA Ladders: This is the final rating and provides up to 375 pounds to be supported on the ladder. Those looking to carry extremely heavy items up and down the ladder should choose the Type IAA.

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