Ladder safety 101
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, OSHA statistics show, and falls from ladders account for roughly one-third of those fatalities. In 2013, ladders were the source of injury for 5,900 cases involving days away from work and 76 deaths in the construction industry, according to the 2016 edition of the National Safety Council chartbook, “Injury Facts.” These injuries and deaths are preventable.
Should you use a ladder?
Before beginning a work task that you believe may require a ladder, OSHA recommends asking these questions:
- Will you need to hold heavy items while on the ladder?
- Will the job require a long ladder that may be unstable?
- Will you be working at height for a long period of time?
- Will the job require you to stand on the ladder sideways?
If you respond “yes” to any of these questions, reconsider using a ladder. Instead, try another type of equipment such as a scissor lift. However, if a ladder is necessary, OSHA advises using one with a working platform with handrail barricades on the sides.
OSHA recommends following a number of tips when working on a ladder:
- Be sure the ladder you’re using for the task is high enough to allow you to work without standing on the top rung – something you should never do.
- Ensure the base of the ladder is secured and on a level surface.
- Wear proper footwear, such as non-slip flat shoes.
- Fully extend the ladder before beginning work.
- Always maintain three points of contact on the ladder.
- Refrain from carrying tools or objects in your hands when you’re climbing the ladder.
- Don’t place a ladder near a doorway unless you’re sure the door is locked and will not be opened.
For more ladder safety tips, download OSHA's booklet for workers in English and Spanish.