Ladders: General Information and Checklist

Ladders: General Information and Checklist

Most workers injured in falls from ladders, are less than 10 feet above the ladder’s base.  Portable ladders generally fall into the following basic categories:

Single Ladder:  A non-self supporting portable ladder that is non adjustable in length.

Extension Ladder:  A non-self supporting ladder that is adjustable in length. 

Step Ladder:  A self-supporting ladder, nonadjustable in length, having flat steps and hinged back.  Step Ladder types are:

Type I – Industrial (3’ to 20’) 300# Rating,

Type II – Commercial (3’ to 12’) 225# or 250# Rating, and

Type III – household (3’ to 6’) 200# Rating.

The following tips will help improve ladder safety and help workers avoid falls and other ladder mishaps.

Wooden ladders should be smooth on all sides, free from sharp edges and splinters, visually sound, free of cracks, decay or other irregularities.  No wooden stepladder should be over 20 feet long.

Metal ladders should be free of structural defects, sharp edges, burrs, etc.  The metal should be protected against corrosion.  Take necessary safety measures when using metal ladders in areas containing electrical circuits to prevent short circuits or electrical shock.

Fiberglass safety ladders are non-conductive with re-enforced fiberglass side rails and non-marring end caps that act as insulators. The ladders are relatively lightweight. The ladder resists weathering and corrosion.

Inspection, Maintenance and Set-up:

  1. Ladders should be inspected frequently, and those which have developed defects should be withdrawn from service for repair or destruction.
  2. Inspect your ladder for tight joints between steps and side rails, cracks, rust, broken rungs and rails, and oily or greasy rungs.
  3. Ladders should be maintained in good condition at all times. The joint between the steps and side rails should be tight, all hardware and fittings should be securely attached, and movable parts should operate freely without binding or undo play.
  4. Ensure there are non-slip safety feet on each ladder, or secure the ladder to prevent it from sliding on slippery surfaces. Check to see that the feet are in good condition.
  5. Stepladders must have a metal spreader bar.
  6. Check the ladder’s rating, and don’t subject it to a load greater than its rated capacity.
  7. Use only nonconductive ladders near electrical conductors.
  8. Fiberglass ladders should be inspected periodically for damage from exposure to ultraviolet light (either sunlight or welding). If the resin is cracked or has degraded to the point where fiberglass is starting to surface, the ladder should be discarded.
  9. Ladders should not be painted as paint can hide defects.
  10. Check the rope on extension ladders. Frayed or badly worn rope should be replaced.
  11. Set the ladder on solid footing, against a solid support.
  12. Place the base of non-self-supporting ladders away from the wall one foot for every four feet of vertical height. In the case of a landing that extends out from a wall the ladder base should placed away from an imaginary vertical line from the edge of the upper level of the landing, one foot for every four feet of vertical height.
  13. Never use ladders as sideways platforms, runways or scaffolds.