Ladder Safety: 3 Key Steps

Learn the essential steps before using, setting up and climbing a ladder

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Working with Ladders

Ladders are essential in the everyday activities of workers, particularly across the construction industry. Using a ladder can seem simple, but it is easy to overlook the serious risks. Faulty equipment, improper setup, poor training, bad weather conditions and distraction can cause serious injuries and even death. The CDC cites that 81% of fall injuries amongst construction workers involve the use of ladders.

This brief guide will help you understand basic ladder safety tips and how to apply them before using a ladder, during setup and while climbing it. We have also included downloadable safety checklists you can use on your worksite.

Step 1 – Before Using a Ladder: Is Your Ladder Safe?

In addition to choosing the right tool for the right job, you should be confident that the tool is safe to use.

Before using a ladder ask yourself if you can perform the task without working from heights. If not possible, choose the correct ladder for the required task and height. Check for tags and labels to know the use case of the ladder. Most importantly, inspect all parts for cracks, damages, bends or corrosions. Braces or ladder feet should be stable. Steps and rungs must be free from oils and dirts. Locks, bolts, rivets and other components should work perfectly. In case of any defects, label the ladder “Do Not Use” and report it to authorized people for repair or replacement.

By performing regular ladder equipment inspections, your team will feel assured that the tools they are choosing are safe to use.

Step 2 – Setting Up Your Ladder: Should We Work Or Not?

There is no point in having safe to operate ladders if external conditions like weather, nearby hazards and setup are not assessed. These factors should be taken into consideration before we decide whether we commence work for the day.

First things first, always conduct a pre-start meeting or toolbox talk with your team to discuss all worksite hazards present before starting working. All workers should be trained and qualified, and should be aware of the emergency procedures if something goes wrong when operating ladders.

When setting up your ladder, choose the safest location and beware nearby hazards. Avoid working on a ladder during windy or wet conditions as this increases the chance of a ladder collapsing or causing slips and falls. Next, look for overhead power cables which could pose electrical hazards. Do not use a metal ladder if you think your work will involve the use of electrical equipment. Lastly, set your ladder only on even surfaces and if possible use a firm level footing.

Your team should always keep the shift supervisor updated on any high risks observed. Aborting work for the day is better than getting the team in danger.

Step 3 – Climbing Up a Ladder: Are You Ready?

More often than not, we tend to forget the proper ways of doing things when we think we are good at it. Using a ladder can seem second nature to most, however improper climbing techniques or even a slight distraction can result in falls, serious injury or death.

Remembering these 6 simple tips will help you minimize your risk of slipping or falling when climbing a ladder:

  • Be attentive by watching your steps.
  • Always keep yourself centered and use “3-point contact”. The climber must have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder steps, rungs and/or side rails at all times.
  • Do not carry any loads or objects in either hand that can interfere with a firm grip on the ladder.
  • Do not pull, lean, stretch or make sudden movements.
  • Always use slip-resistant footwear.
  • Observe the one person at a time rule.