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Published on Jun 29
Each year the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list of its top 10 most frequently cited standards. Ladder safety ranks number 3 on the list for 2021 and has been a mainstay on OSHA’s Top 10 since 2005. Additionally, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there were 161 fatal and 22,710 non-fatal work injuries due to ladders in 2020 – highlighting the often overlooked danger of these common workplace tools.
By understanding OSHA’s guidelines for ladder safety and training your employees on their proper use, you can help prevent or reduce serious accidents in the workplace.
General Ladder Safety
The following rules apply to all ladders:
- Maintain ladders free of oil, grease and other slipping hazards.
- Do not load ladders beyond their maximum intended load nor beyond the manufacturer’s rated capacity.
- Use ladders only for their designed purpose.
- Use ladders only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental movement.
- Do not use ladders on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip-resistant feet to prevent accidental movement. Do not use slip resistant feet as a substitute for exercising care when placing, lashing, or holding a ladder upon slippery surfaces.
- Secure ladders placed in areas such as passageways, doorways, or driveways, or where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic to prevent accidental movement. Or use a barricade to keep traffic or activity away from the ladder.
- Keep areas clear around the top and bottom of ladders.
- Do not move, shift, or extend ladders while in use.
- Use ladders equipped with nonconductive side rails if the worker or the ladder could contact exposed energized electrical equipment.
- Face the ladder when moving up or down.
- Use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing.
- Do not carry objects or loads that could cause loss of balance and falling.
Portable Ladder Safety
- Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
- Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for 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, 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.
- Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks, or hooks) for their designed purposes.
- Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps, or feet.
- Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
- 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 place a ladder on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
- 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.
- A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.
- Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
Fixed Ladder Safety
If the total length of the climb on a fixed ladder equals or exceeds 24 feet (7.3 m), the ladder must be equipped with ladder safety devices; or self-retracting lifelines and rest platforms at intervals not to exceed 150 feet (45.7 m); or a cage or well and multiple ladder sections with each ladder section not to exceed 50 feet (15.2 m) in length. These ladder sections must be offset from adjacent sections and landing platforms must be provided at maximum intervals of 50 feet (15.2 m). In addition, fixed ladders must meet the following requirements:
- Fixed ladders must be able to support at least two loads of 250 pounds (114 kg) each, concentrated between any two consecutive attachments. Fixed ladders also must support added anticipated loads caused by ice buildup, winds, rigging, and impact loads resulting from using ladder safety devices.
- Individual rung/step ladders must extend at least 42 inches (1.1 m) above an access level or landing platform either by the continuation of the rung spacings as horizontal grab bars or by providing vertical grab bars that must have the same lateral spacing as the vertical legs of the ladder rails.
- Each step or rung of a fixed ladder must be able to support a load of at least 250 pounds (114 kg) applied in the middle of the step or rung.
- Minimum clear distance between the sides of individual rung/step ladders and between the side rails of other fixed ladders must be 16 inches (41 cm).
- Rungs of individual rung/step ladders must be shaped to prevent slipping off the end of the rungs.
- Rungs and steps of fixed metal ladders manufactured after March 15, 1991, must be corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or treated to minimize slipping.
- Minimum perpendicular clearance between fixed ladder rungs, cleats, and steps and any obstruction behind the ladder must be 7 inches (18 cm), except that the clearance for an elevator pit ladder must be 4.5 inches (11 cm).
- Minimum perpendicular clearance between the centerline of fixed ladder rungs, cleats and steps, and any obstruction on the climbing side of the ladder must be 30 inches (76 cm). If obstructions are unavoidable, clearance may be reduced to 24 inches (61 cm), provided a deflection device is installed to guide workers around the obstruction.
- Step-across distance between the center of the steps or rungs of fixed ladders and the nearest edge of a landing area must be no less than 7 inches (18 cm) and no more than 12 inches (30 cm). A landing platform must be provided if the step-across distance exceeds 12 inches (30 cm).
- Fixed ladders without cages or wells must have at least a 15-inch (38 cm) clearance width to the nearest permanent object on each side of the centerline of the ladder.
- Fixed ladders must be provided with cages, wells, ladder safety devices or self-retracting lifelines where the length of climb is less than 24 feet (7.3 m) but the top of the ladder is at a distance greater than 24 feet (7.3 m) above lower levels.
- Side rails of through or side-step fixed ladders must extend 42 inches (1.1 m) above the top level or landing platform served by the ladder. Parapet ladders must have an access level at the roof if the parapet is cut to permit passage through it. If the parapet is continuous, the access level is the top of the parapet.
- Steps or rungs for through-fixed-ladder extensions must be omitted from the extension; and the extension of side rails must be flared to provide between 24 inches (61 cm) and 30 inches (76 cm) clearance between side rails.
- When safety devices are provided, the maximum clearance distance between side rail extensions must not exceed 36 inches (91 cm).
- Fixed ladders must be used at a pitch no greater than 90 degrees from the horizontal, measured from the back side of the ladder.
Safety and Sheakley
Keeping your workforce safe is priority one for your company and Sheakley is here to help you do just that. From policy development and training to drug testing and compliance, we have a full spectrum of solutions designed to aid you in protecting your employees and your bottom line.
Our team of Risk & Safety experts can assist you in crafting a comprehensive safety program that’s tailored to the hazards of your industry, reduces workplace accidents, and meets your long-term goals.
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