Protective Insurance is now Progressive Fleet & Specialty Programs. For more details, visit the blog.

​Ladders are a seemingly simple tool to use - set them up and start climbing. However, there are several opportunities for slips, falls and injuries if they aren’t used properly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that more than 100,000 people are treated for injuries resulting from falling off a ladder and more than 300 annual fatalities occur from ladder-related injuries. With these alarming statistics, it’s not safe to assume your workers are familiar with ladder safety. Incorporate this topic into your training to help protect your workers from injury or death.

Whether your workers are climbing onto their flatbed or into their trailer, reaching for inventory in a warehouse, loading or unloading cargo, or performing maintenance duties, they need to realize that not every ladder is right for every job. Workers should consider what type of ladder they need, how heavy their load is and how high they need to reach. Every ladder has a duty rating, or maximum weight it can safely support. This includes the person’s weight as well as what they are lifting. Exceeding capacity can cause a collapse, resulting in serious injury.

Inspect ladders before climbing. Check for hazards such as loose steps and rungs, nails or other parts, broken uprights, damaged or worn nonslip bases, and carefully examine the general stability. Grease, dirt and other contaminants can build up and cause slips and falls so ladders should periodically be cleaned. If a ladder is broken, clearly mark it as out of service or destroy it to prevent others from using it.

Ladders should always be placed on level ground. If the ladder is unsteady at all, workers shouldn’t attempt to climb it. To prevent sliding, the American National Standards Institute recommends setting up portable non-self-supporting ladders at a 75.5 degree angle. If the angle is bigger than that, the ladder can tip backward. If it’s smaller, the ladder may break or slip.

Just like when entering and exiting a truck, workers should maintain three points of contact while climbing a ladder. They should hold onto the side rails and never attempt to take more than one step at a time. Ladders should never be used horizontally as a bridge or scaffolding between two points. Most are designed to be used vertically. Because of weight distribution, it’s very dangerous to try any other position.

Workers should never overextend to the point where their center of gravity is above the highest rung or outside of the side rails. This will cause workers to lose their balance and potentially fall. Rather than reach too far to one side or climb higher than the top rung, reposition the ladder or use one that is taller. Some new ladders have marks indicating the highest step that is safe to use. If not marked, workers should maintain their center of gravity below the highest rung and should never use the highest rung or top of the ladder as a standing surface since there is nothing there to support them.

In no circumstance should multiple ladders be tied or fastened together to reach higher locations. Climbing ladders that are tied together is incredibly dangerous. If workers have to reach a location that is higher than the ladder they have on hand, they should use a hydraulic lift that is OSHA-compliant for standing. Never place a ladder on a hydraulic lift to extend the height.

The American Ladder Institute has additional ladder safety tips as well as a guide to choosing the right ladder. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also has standards for ladder use, violations of which ranked eighth in the top 10 most frequently cited standards in 2011.

  • Categorized in:
  • Workplace Safety
  • Transportation Safety
  • Injury Prevention
  • Slips & Falls
  • Dock & Warehouse Safety