Workplace Solutions Facility safety Fall protection Utilities

Ladder safety

What are some commonly overlooked dangers of fixed ladders?


Responding is Chris Allen, business development specialist, Belt Conveyor Guarding, Barrie, Ontario.

Fixed ladders are common in industrial settings and urban areas, on the sides of buildings, and around utility structures. They provide crucial access to machinery, maintenance platforms and elevated areas such as rooftops. Despite their utility, fixed ladders present several often-overlooked risks ranging from unauthorized access and vandalism to severe injuries and potential litigation.

The significance of restricting rooftop access

Preventing unauthorized entry: Unrestricted rooftop access can attract unauthorized individuals such as vandals or trespassers who may engage in unsafe behaviors or tamper with equipment. Restricting access ensures only authorized personnel with proper training on safety protocols can access the rooftop.

Avoiding incidental falls: Rooftops often have potential fall hazards, including unprotected edges, skylights and equipment. By restricting access, employers minimize the risk of incidental falls, which are among the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities.

Reducing liability and legal risks: Allowing unrestricted access to rooftops can lead to legal liabilities in case of incidents or injuries involving unauthorized individuals. By enforcing access restrictions, employers can demonstrate their commitment to safety and reduce the risk of costly legal battles.

Protecting sensitive equipment: Many rooftops house expensive and sensitive equipment such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems or communication infrastructure. Unauthorized access can lead to damage or theft, resulting in significant financial losses.

An effective tool for rooftop access restriction: a ladder guard

Physical barrier: Ladder guards act as a physical barrier, preventing unauthorized individuals from accessing fixed ladders leading to the rooftop. These guards can be designed to fit various ladder types, making them a versatile and adaptable solution for different structures.

Deterrent to unwanted access: The presence of ladder guards sends a clear message that access to the rooftop is restricted. Potential trespassers or unauthorized individuals are more likely to be discouraged from attempting to climb the ladder when faced with this obstacle.

Enhancing worker safety: For authorized personnel, ladder guards offer an added layer of protection during rooftop access. The guards help ensure employees are aware of potential hazards and follow proper safety procedures when using the ladder.

Compliance with safety standards: Regulatory bodies such as OSHA often require establishments to implement safety measures to protect workers and the public. Using ladder guards is a proactive step toward compliance with these standards, avoiding potential fines and penalties.

Although fixed ladders are an indispensable part of infrastructure and building design, their associated risks must not be underestimated. Property owners and employers should be proactive in implementing security measures to prevent unauthorized access, ensuring adequate safety features are in place and conducting regular maintenance. By addressing these often-overlooked dangers, the risk of vandalism, injuries and subsequent lawsuits can be significantly reduced, ensuring a safer environment for everyone involved.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be considered a National Safety Council endorsement.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)