Ladders are great tools, but they are also a source of many injuries at home and on the job. Proper setup is critical to the safe use of a ladder. Ladders need to be checked for defects before they are used. Additionally, a ladder should never be used to carry loads that exceed the safe weight rating for the ladder. Metal ladders and electrical lines do not mix. Make sure the ladder has enough height and is strong enough to handle the load of the person using the ladder and any equipment being carried up the ladder. Using a ladder with damaged or missing rungs poses additional safety concerns. Most importantly however, is to set the ladder up on a flat secure surface, with any special rubberized footpads positioned properly.
OSHA reports that falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. OSHA (paraphrasing) recommends that persons using a ladder:
- Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
- Avoid overhead power lines before handling a ladder.
- Always inspect the ladder for structural damage prior to using it.
- Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing.
- Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
- Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
- Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
- Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
- Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
- Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
- Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
- An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support.
- The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall.
- A ladder set in a location where it can be displaced by other activities must be secured or barricaded.
- Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
- Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder.
If someone falls from a ladder and is injured, be sure to preserve the ladder for inspection and testing, and be sure to photograph or otherwise preserve the scene of the incident so that the cause can be investigated. Ladders can be defective, and sometimes proper warnings are not affixed to ladders. If you have been involved in an injury incident involving a ladder please call and speak with one of our experienced lawyers.