Ladder misuse is one of the most frequent causes of job site accidents and injuries in the construction and contracting industry. A report by the CDC found that 34,000 people were injured and 113 were killed in just one year as a result of work-related ladder falls. The majority of these incidents happened to construction workers. Even more troubling, self-employed contractors and small contracting teams were more likely to see higher than usual fatality rates.
To protect yourself, your workers and everyone’s respective loved ones from the anguish of serious injury or death, always practice the following safety precautions when using ladders on a job site:
Ladder Safety Rules
Ladders have pressure placed on them unevenly while workers climb up and down or lean out to perform tasks. This change in movement and forces can make the load bearing abilities of a ladder unpredictable, even if the worker and materials are nowhere close to passing the maximum load.
To help workers exercise caution, OSHA recommends using ladders that can support at least four times the maximum intended load, which includes the worker and the materials or equipment they will be carrying. For heavy duty ladders, the maximum load rating for the ladder should be 3.33 times the intended load workers will place on them.
Keep a 1-to-4 Angle When Leaning Ladders
Extension ladders and other non-self-supporting ladders that have to be leaned against a wall should use an ideal angle to ensure stability and load bearing capabilities. OSHA recommends that the horizontal distance from the ladder to the wall be about a fourth of the vertical distance from the top of the ladder to the ground. This creates a 76 degree angle between the ladder and the ground, and a small 14 degree angle between the ladder and the wall.
For job-made ladders, OSHA recommends leaning them closer to the wall at a 1/8 ratio since they will not be as strong commercially made ladders.
Always Follow Manufacturer Instructions
One of the most common causes of injury is that workers ignore the intended use of the ladder, including warning labels and operating instructions. Standing on the top rung on a stepladder, for example, is something almost universally discouraged by ladder manufacturers. Yet, every day thousands of workers risk their well-being just to get a little bit closer to their task without having to move the ladder. Do not engage in such risky behavior for even a second, since a second is all it takes to slip and fall.
Use Approved Rungs and Keep Them Clean
Ladder rungs should be parallel and evenly spaced. Each rung should be between 10-14 inches apart. Extension trestle ladder spacing should be 8-18 inches apart on the base component and 6-12 inches apart on the extension component.
All rungs should have a skid resistant design. No objects, like shop rags, drinks, tools or materials, should be placed on the rungs while the ladder is in use. Rungs should be cleaned off regularly and kept free of slippery substances like oil, grease, paint or other similar hazards. The areas around the top and bottom of the ladder should also be kept clear at all times, enabling workers to maneuver safety.
Job sites that follow these rules and use only ladders complying with OSHA design standards minimize the risk of deadly falls and serious injuries.