Ladder Safety: Portable and Fixed Ladders

Ladder Safety: Portable and Fixed Ladders

People fall off ladders, resulting in injuries that range from bruises, broken bones, or even death.  There are several potential hazards when working with ladders.  Poor condition, improper selection or improper use has contributed to numerous injuries.  Proper ladder selection is vital in keeping the employee safe while climbing.  You should be aware of a ladder’s weight and height limits.  Also it is critically important not to use a metal ladder near live electrical wires.

If a ladder is missing parts or has parts that are not intact, it’s not going to be able to support the user.  Scheduled inspections and inspections prior to its use are a key part of ladder safety.

Improper use of the ladder is the most common contributing factor in ladder accidents.  Ladders should only be used for the intended use.  Listed below are some common sense ladder safety characteristics:

  1. Fixed ladders should have a clearance of seven inches between the ladder and structure to ensure safe footing.
  2. Inspect the ladders to ensure they are bolted to the derrick. All bolts and ladder rungs should be periodically checked for tightness.
  3. No fixed ladder shall be allowed to lean backward from a vertical position.
  4. No more than one person will be permitted on a portable ladder.
  5. Never extend beyond an arm’s length to reach work when on a ladder. To prevent slipping or falling, do not lean out from the centerline of a ladder.
  6. The entire length and width of all ladders must be kept free of obstructions at all times.
  7. Metal ladders must not be used for electrical work.
  8. Damaged portable ladders are to be destroyed and replaced with new ones. No employee shall use a portable ladder unless the ladder is secured against toppling.  Portable ladders should be equipped with non-skid feet.  Do not use ladders which do not stand straight or are not level.
  9. Face the ladder at all times when climbing or descending.
  10. A ladder must not be used as a scaffold or as a flat walking surface.
  11. The portable ladder’s base should be placed a distance of approximately one-fourth of its length away from a wall.
  12. When raising a ladder, make sure it does not contact an electrical line.
  13. Employees must inspect ladders before each use.

Ladder Setup Procedures

  1. Place the ladder on a level surface. Use wide boards under the feet of the ladder if you are on soft ground.
  2. Set the ladder feet so they are parallel with the upper surface that the ladder rests against for support.
  3. Extend the ladder so there is at least three feet above the top support.
  4. Anchor the top and have someone hold the bottom or tie it so it will not slip out from under you.
  5. Position the ladder so that the distance from the ladder base to the wall is one-fourth the length of the ladder height.

Suggested questions for review

  1. What are some of the things to look for when inspecting a ladder?
  2. When should metal ladders not be used?
  3. At what angle do you position the ladder before climbing?
  4. How do you properly climb a ladder?