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Falls from ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. Most people think of ladder use in construction or industrial operations, but the surprising news is that many injuries resulting from improper ladder use occur in an office or retail setting. Ladder safety is important in all industries. Did you know that anyone using a ladder to change a light bulb in an office, or to reach product stored overhead in a retail setting is required by OSHA to be trained in the safe use of that ladder?
Ladder Safety Requirements
According to the portable ladder safety requirements under OSHA’s revised walking and working surfaces & fall protection general industry standard [1910.23], it is imperative to:
- 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 as a single ladder or in a partially closed position. (ie: don’t close an A-frame step ladder and use it as a straight ladder)
- 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. (An easy way of determining the correct ladder angle: with the extension or straight ladder leaning against a vertical surface, place your feet so that your toes are touching the base of the ladder, then extend your arms out and grab the side rails of the ladder. Adjust the ladder so your extended arms and toes are in contact with the ladder. Regardless of your height, the ladder will be at the correct angle, applying this guideline.)
- 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.
- Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder’s load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.
The simple task of changing a light bulb or accessing a file above reaching height can lead to serious injuries when the correct preventative measures are overlooked. A great place to start is to take an inventory of all ladders in your facility and develop a training program based on how each ladder is intended to be used.
One of the best resources on ladder use / safety is the manufacturer of the ladder. Employers should always review the manufacturer guidelines on any ladder they currently use or plan to purchase.
It is also important to identify a competent person who can inspect the ladder for visible defects/exposures. OSHA defines a competent person as one who has the knowledge of the hazard, understands how to correct the hazard and most importantly, has the authority to implement the corrective action, including shutting down the operation / task until the hazard is corrected. If you do not have the authority to implement change, you can not be the competent person regardless of your knowledge of the hazard or corrective action.
Thank you for allowing Safegard to assist in improving your ladder safety today. Contact us with any questions or concerns.