Stairways and ladders are a major source of injuries and fatalities among construction workers. OSHA estimates each year nearly 25,000 employees are injured and 36 die from the improper use of ladders. Nearly half of these injuries are serious enough to result in days away from work.
These simple steps will help to eliminate ladder accidents.
1. Choose the Right Ladder
- Type I – Industrial: heavy-duty with a load capacity of no more than 250 lbs.
- Type II – Commercial: medium-duty with a load capacity not more than 225 lbs.
- Type III – Household: light-duty with a load capacity of not more than 200 lbs.
2. Correctly Use the Ladder
- Secure the ladder: An extension ladder should be tied off at the top, middle and bottom to prevent ladder movement or slipping. The structure that you tie the ladder to must be capable of supporting the ladder. A second person should act as a spotter and hold the ladder at the bottom. Tie off at the bottom of the overlap section to prevent slippage. The top must extend 3 feet beyond the roof line if you are climbing onto the structure.
- If climbing from the ladder to another surface, make sure the ladder extends 3 feet past the platform being climbed to.
- Always face the ladder when climbing or descending.
- Do not climb higher than the second rung on stepladders or the third rung on straight or extension ladders
- Personnel should have their hands free of material while climbing ladders. Hand lines and/or tool pouches will be used to raise or lower material.
- Utilize the 4-1 ratio: The 4-to-1 Ratio applies to the distance the ladder's base must be from the foundation. This is figured by dividing the length of the structure from the ground to the top support point (where the ladder rests against the building) by four. It does not include the 3 foot extension to 15 feet; the ladder's base should be 3 feet from the foundation. The 4-to-1 Ratio is important because the angle it creates utilizes the ladder's strength and gives optimum balance when climbing.
3. Properly Maintain the Ladder
The final part of ladder safety is proper maintenance. Ladders should be inspected before and after each use. Inspect step ladders and extension ladders for broken or frozen joints or latches. Inspect aluminum ladders for cracks, broken welds, rough spots and burrs.
Inspect wood ladders for cracked wood, splinters, and rot. Look for broken or loose hardware. Protect wood ladders with linseed oil or clear sealant.
Fiberglass ladders are protected with a clear sealant. If the fiberglass is damaged through the sealant, sand lightly before applying another coat of lacquer.
With all ladders frequently oil metal bearings of locks, wheels, pulleys and other moving parts.