Scared of heights? Well, this information may just help you out! Ladders are used widely in the occupational sector to complete various tasks, but they present quite a few safety hazards. First and foremost, you want to select the correct ladder for the job. It needs to be the correct size and style for the task you are doing. Some important factors to keep in mind are: how high do you need to reach; how much weight will the ladder need to hold; is this an indoor or outdoor task.
Ladders come in three basic materials: wood, fiberglass, and metal. Choosing the correct material is dependent upon many factors such as: will your work be conducted inside or outside; is there risk of coming into contact with electricity. If there is potential for electrical contact, the metal ladder is not your best choice. Fiberglass and wood do not conduct electricity well, so these would be better options. As for specific types of ladders, there are numerous options. Ladder supply companies like Grainger have ladder descriptions for their various types and these will assist in you choosing the correct one for the job.
In order to choose the correct load capacity for a ladder, the duty rating must be examined. This rating indicates the maximum load that a ladder may carry safely. There are five different duty ratings in the ladder world: Type III (Light Duty) at 200 lbs; Type II (Medium Duty) at 225 lbs; Type I (Heavy Duty) 250 lbs; Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty) at 300 lbs; and Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty) at 375 lbs. In order to make a determination of what your load capacity needs to be, consider the following: your weight; the weight of your clothing/PPE; the weight of tools and supplies you will be carrying; and the weight of tools and supplies stored on the ladder. This information and much more may be found on the ladder identification label.
Ladders should always be placed on solid foundations. If there is no other way to perform the task, then try to secure a board on the soft surface you are working on to provide stability. When the ladder is set, it needs to be leaning on a surface that can support the weight and will not move. If there are any entrances or openings around the base of the ladder, they should be locked out so that no one can knock the ladder over. Also, be sure that the appropriate length to height ratio is used when having a ladder resting on the side of something; for every four feet in height that your ladder reaches up the side of something, it should be one foot away. Take this example, if my ladder height is 20 feet up the side of a building then the base should be five feet away from the wall.
While the top step of a ladder can easily be mistaken for an actual step, this is not its intended purpose. This top step is not to be used and is the cause of many ladder injuries and falls. Regardless of how badly you need a tool, never have someone climb up the ladder to give it to you. Only one person should be on a ladder at a time. When performing work on a ladder, be sure to not overreach or lean, simply climb down and reposition the ladder. Always wear slip-resistant shoes to avoid falling and wear a tool belt to keep your hands free.
In addition to these factors, the environmental conditions should be taken into account. No ladders should be used in heavy wind or inclement weather. If any bad weather does arise while on the job, just climb down and wait for it to pass. After the storm, give the ladder a good wash down to prevent dirt buildup.
If you follow these safety tips then you can avoid being on OSHA’s Top 10 List! Ladder safety came in at number six on this list in 2018. Falls are incredibly dangerous and every precaution that can be taken when working at heights should be! STEP believes an educated workforce is a safe workforce and we can help with all of your ladder safety needs!