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Loss Control & Risk Management

How to Use a Ladder Safely

Whether your job has you on a ladder regularly or if you only go up one once in a while, it’s important to use safe ladder techniques to avoid a workplace injury.

Ladders are so commonplace in our lives that it’s easy to forget that they have instructions and come with safety guidelines. Let’s review these recommendations, so you can ensure your workplace stays safe.

How to Safely Set Up a Ladder

Many of the initial safety precautions revolve around setting up the ladder. It all starts with a solid foundation and having a secure base. Once that’s established, knowing how to use the ladder safely and inspecting it and the surrounding area sets you up for success.

Read the safety label. Like most tools, reading the instructions sets you up for success from the get-go. Read the ladder’s label for directions on weight limits, locking it into place and other important safety information.

Inspect it. Before climbing, make sure the ladder is in good working condition. Look it over for loose rungs, cracks or corrosion. Don’t risk it if the ladder seems damaged or worn.

Check the foundation. Make sure the ground beneath your ladder is firm and level. Uneven ground can make a ladder wobbly, the higher you go, the more dangerous it becomes. Resist the urge to use barrels, boxes or unstable items to gain more height.

Look overhead. From top to bottom, you need to be in a safe location. Make sure there are no power lines or exposed wires above or near the ladder.

What are the surroundings? If the ladder is in a place where work activities or other people can displace it, it needs to be secured or barricaded so no one can knock it over.

Right height. Use the right ladder for the task at hand. By sticking within the height guidelines you’re never tempted to use rungs that aren’t intended as steps. When it says “this is not a step” they mean it.

Three feet up. An extension ladder must extend at least three feet above the point of support for safety. Remember, you should never stand on the top three rungs of an extension ladder.

Proper angle. To achieve the proper angle for setting, place the base a quarter of the working length of the ladder away from the wall. For example, if your ladder is resting seven feet up the wall, the base should be a quarter of that distance away from the wall, so 1.75-feet.

Locks engaged. Make sure all the locks on your extension ladder are properly engaged before mounting.

Load rating. When determining the load rating, make sure you think beyond your weight. Take into consideration the weight of any tools or equipment that it will be supporting, too.

Use as intended. Don’t try to turn your ladder into scaffolding or a bridge. It’s meant to be a ladder only and any other use isn’t going to be safe. Also, a self-supporting ladder shouldn’t be used as an extension ladder.

How to Safely Mount a Ladder

Now that the ladder is safely positioned, it’s time to focus on using it. Ladders have some limitations and they’re designed for a specific use. Following these tips will not only ensure your safety, but they’ll make you feel more confident about the entire experience.

Don’t step on the shelf. If you’re using a ladder that has a shelf, always remember that it’s not designed to hold your weight.

Three-point climb. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recommends always climbing with 3-point contact. That means two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot on the ladder at all times.

Face the ladder. Keep your body positioned facing the ladder and toward the middle of it.

Safety Tips for Using a Ladder

When you’re on the ladder, you want to feel secure and safe so you can attend to the task at hand. Once you have that confidence and the ladder feels sold beneath you, it can be tempting to reach just a little further or go just a little higher, but it’s best to resist those urges. Following recommended ladder guidelines from start to finish puts a priority on workplace safety.

Don’t lean too far. Maintaining balance for the ladder and yourself is a key part of staying secure. It takes a little more effort to climb down and move the ladder, but it’s worth the effort.

Don’t move. Never move a ladder when a person or your equipment is on it.

Promoting a safe work environment shows your employees that you care. Consider holding regular safety meetings to review things like ladder protocol and discuss concerns they may have. This puts everyone on the path to a safer workplace.

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Related Topics: Employee Safety , Protecting Your Business , Safety Programs