Ladder safety tips you should know
Last modified on May 4th, 2023
Ladder safety tips
Improper ladder usage can be dangerous and lead to accidents, injuries or worse. Unfortunately, many employers either neglect the safety of this critical job function or simply don’t know how best to promote ladder safety.
The truth is that ladder safety should be a top priority for every employer and employee. And the good news is that promoting ladder safety doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. In fact, implementing a few straightforward safety tips can go a long way in preventing workplace accidents and injuries.
Falls, instability and electrical shock are among the most common safety hazards associated with ladders, according to the National Ag Safety Database. There are several unsafe ways employees use ladders that could increase the likelihood of one of these incidents leading to accident or injury, including:
- Standing on the top rung of the ladder without additional support.
- Carrying heavy items up or down the ladder.
- Placing ladders on unstable flooring, like soft ground or other objects.
- Exposing the ladder (especially ones made from metal) to nearby electrical wires.
- Using a ladder that is damaged, including cracks, loose or missing parts, or other defects.
- Attempting to utilize a ladder that is different from the correct length for the job, such as a tall ladder for a short distance or vice versa.
- Placing ladders near doorways or other high-traffic areas where they could be bumped or knocked over.
- Leaning over the ladder while climbing or holding on to it.
- Ignoring warnings from manufacturers about the maximum weight-bearing capacity of the ladder.
- Using a ladder in poor lighting, such as at night or in dimly lit areas.
Unsafe ladder practices can be extremely dangerous and possibly fatal. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 22,710 workplace ladder injuries in 2020, and a total of 161 deaths. Industries with a focus on installation, maintenance, repair, construction and extraction accounted for nearly half of all ladder injuries.
9 on-the-job ladder safety best practices
There are several vital steps employees can take to stay safe on a day-to-day basis. Here are the nine most helpful ladder safety tips employees can practice every day:
- Maintain three points of contact: Make sure employees are following the three-points-of-contact rule. That means keeping three body parts (either one arm and two feet or two arms and one foot) on the ladder at all times. This will increase stability and groundedness and decrease the likelihood of employees losing their balance and falling.
- Face the ladder for more stability: It’s also important for employees to face the ladder every time they are going up or coming down. This positioning is significantly safer than facing out and reduces the chance of slipping or falling forward when moving along the ladder.
- Keep lifting loads light: Employees should avoid carrying heavy items up or down the ladder, which could cause them (or the ladder) to lose balance. They should rely on other employees to pass tools and other equipment up to them.
- Ensure stable grounding: Ladders should always be placed on hard, stable footing, like concrete. Avoid putting a ladder on soft ground that can easily cause it to shift, slide or tip when being used.
- Don’t stack the ladder: Ladders require strong, stable support to be used safely, so operators should never aim to boost a ladder’s length by placing it on a stack of boxes or other similarly unstable grounding. It’s also a good idea to assign one individual to hold the ladder to prevent unstable bases.
- Lean extension ladders at an appropriate angle: When using extension ladders, employees should aim to stick to a four-to-one angle: For every four rungs, the base of the ladder should be moved back roughly one foot to prevent tipping and slipping.
- Inspect the ladder before each use: Before climbing a ladder, employees should inspect it to ensure it’s in good condition. This includes checking for cracks or damage to the rails and rungs. If any damage is found, employees should not use the ladder until it’s repaired.
- Use the right ladder for the job: Not all ladders are created equal, and each ladder is designed for specific tasks. For example, extension ladders are great for reaching high areas, but step ladders are more stable for lower heights. Using the wrong ladder can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
- Avoid electrical hazards: If employees are working near power lines or electrical equipment, they should avoid using metal ladders, which can conduct electricity. Instead, they should use ladders made of non-conductive materials, like fiberglass or wood. Additionally, they should never touch electrical equipment or wires while on a ladder, as this can be extremely dangerous.
Of course, to promote better ladder safety across the entire organization, leadership needs to institute a culture of workplace safety. Here are some steps you can take to make ladder safety a priority in your organization:
- Assign a ladder leader: You should assign a designated ladder inspector who will conduct all daily inspections of ladders, looking for possible damage. This person should have extensive experience using ladders and should understand how each component functions properly.
- Invest in high-quality ladders: Investing in high-quality ladders is essential for promoting workplace ladder safety. High-quality ladders are built to withstand heavy use and are less likely to experience wear and tear over time. They’re also designed to provide superior stability and support, reducing the risk of falls and other accidents.
- Conduct a job hazard analysis: Workplace conditions might make ladder usage more dangerous. That might mean the prevalence of exposed electrical wires or excessively slippery floors. Conduct routine job hazard analyses to identify any possible workplace hazards and take steps to ensure safe and clean working conditions.
- Invest in employee training programs: Employee training is one of the most effective ways to prevent workplace ladder injury. Periodically train your employees on ladder safety best practices that are most relevant to your specific workplace requirement. All training programs should include experienced employees, who might still be willing to take dangerous shortcuts when using ladders.
- Establish a safety committee: Your safety committee serves as your organization’s dedicated group of safety-focused individuals. It’s responsible for prioritizing safety topics, earmarking funding for training and assigning individuals to specific safety-related roles. It should also play a lead role in all workplace-safety initiatives.
Maintaining ladder safety is an important step to creating a workplace culture that prioritizes employee safety. At FFVA Mutual, we give our policyholders access to a range of safety training courses that cover a comprehensive set of safety topics. In the ladder safety category, our programs give policyholders information on:
- Fixed ladders
- Ladder care and usage
- Ladder maintenance
- Ladder placement
- Ladder Safety Stand-Down
- Ladder selection
- Portable ladders
We offer policyholders courses in a range of formats, including on-demand recordings, in-person sessions and virtual classes, giving them the convenience to access training information that fits their preferences. If you want to learn more about our safety training courses or if you’re ready to sign up for one, visit our safety training course page to get started.
Our workers’ compensation Solutionists at FFVA Mutual work closely with customers to deliver personalized underwriting, safety and claims services to help them improve workplace safety and resolve claims fast. Reach out to our team to get a conversation started.