Ladders come in all shapes, sizes and material types. They are useful in many different industries for a variety of applications. Unfortunately, they have also become one of the major causes of fall-related fatalities according to the National Safety Council's statistics.
In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 547,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices, clinics and other medical settings in 2004 because of injuries related to ladder use. Most of the injuries are cuts, bruises and fractured bones.
Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. An average of 362 fatal falls occurred each year from 1995 to 1999, with the trend on the increase.
Usage guidelines for portable ladders encompass selecting the proper ladder for the job being performed; inspecting prior to use to verify proper operation and cleanliness; evaluating ladder placement so that footing and top supports are secure and not creating a traffic hazard for pedestrians; utilizing proper climbing technique; and caring for and storing ladders.
You risk falling if portable ladders are not safely positioned each time they are used. While you are on a ladder, it may move and slip from its supports. You can also lose your balance while getting on or off an unsteady ladder. Falls from ladders can cause injuries ranging from sprains to death.
Before using a stepladder, make sure it is fully open, and the spreaders or braces between the two sections are fully extended and locked.
Do not place stepladders or utility ladders on boxes, countertops or unstable surfaces to gain additional height.
The highest standing level on a stepladder should be two steps down from the top.
Using the Ladder
Before climbing a ladder, make sure the locks are secured and the bottom and top of the ladder rails are on firm surfaces. The soles of your shoe should be clean so they don't slip off the ladder rungs. Don't wear leather-soled shoes, they can be slippery. Your shoelaces should be securely tied. Make sure your shoelaces and pant legs are not so long that they extend under your shoes and cause you to slip.
- Face the ladder while climbing and stay in the center of the rails. Grip both rails securely while climbing. Do not lean over the side of the ladder. Your belt buckle should not be further than the side rail.
- On single or extension ladders, never stand above the third rung from the top and never climb above the point where the ladder touches the wall or vertical support.
- On stepladders, never stand on the paint shelf, spreaders or back section.
- Never stand on the top rung of any ladder.
- Don't overreach; it's safer to move the ladder to a new location when needed. Don't try to "jog" or "walk" the ladder to a new location while standing on it. Climb down and reposition the ladder.
- Don't overload a ladder; it is meant to be used by only one person at a time.
- Never use a ladder in high winds.
- Do not use any ladder if you tire easily, are subject to fainting spells or are using medications or alcohol that makes you dizzy or drowsy.
- Position portable ladders so the side rails extend at least 3 feet above the landing.
- Secure side rails at the top to a rigid support and use a grab device when 3-foot extension is not possible.
- Make sure that the weight on the ladder will not cause it to slip off its support.
- Before each use inspect ladders for cracked or broken parts such as rungs, steps, side rails, feet and locking components.
- Do not apply more weight on the ladder than it is designed to support.
- Use only ladders that comply with OSHA design standards.