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Select the correct equipment for the job

March is National Ladder Safety Month. What, at the core, is ladder safety?

“Ladder safety is based on selecting the correct ladder for the job and using it as instructed by the on-product labels,” said Mike Van Bree, vice president of the Cleveland-based American Ladder Institute and director of product safety and engineering at Louisville Ladder in Louisville, KY.

“Toward that end,” he continued, “there have been a couple American National Standards Institute A14 Committee initiatives that reinforce proper selection, inspection, setup, use, transport and storage. Additionally, a thorough review of ladder labeling by a dedicated task force resulted in substantial changes to the ANSI A14 standards labeling sections effective in 2018.” 

Go to to learn more about these standards.

In the workplace “Ladders provide great utility for working at elevation,” Van Bree said.

But they need to be used correctly. Standing higher than the instructions and labeling allow can result in a fall. “There is a very robust factor of safety built into the structures that ensure user safety when used as instructed through the on-product labels,” Van Bree said.

He also pointed out that “failure to set and maintain four feet on the ground with stepladders, or setting extension ladders at an improper angle, can cause ladder instability with tipping or slide out, respectively.”

It’s not only about working high up, though, when it comes to ladders.

“While falls become more hazardous as heights increase, employers and employees are often lax about using the provided safety equipment at lower heights, dock height (48 inches) and below,” said Kevin Manley, vice president of business development for Ormond Beach, FL-based Superior Handling Equipment. “If a chain or a safety barrier is provided, use it at every height.”   

And workers can enhance their safety, too, with ladders: “Safety can be addressed by using accessories or innovative ladder designs that provide users enhanced utility,” Van Bree said.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Respiratory protection
  • Safety signs/labels