March is National Ladder Safety Month, an opportunity to review your policies, training, and equipment. Whether you’re a small service business with a couple of step stools around for lightbulb changes or a large contractor that uses complex climbing equipment, you’ll want to read on for the latest on ladders.
According to OSHA, falls from portable ladders (step-, straight, combination, and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. Here’s a basic overview of what’s required for all ladders.
- Maintain ladders free of oil, grease, and other slip hazards.
- Do not load ladders beyond their maximum intended load or rated capacity.
- User ladders only for their designed purpose.
- Use ladders only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental movement.
- Do not use ladders on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip-resistant feet.
- Secure ladders placed in areas such as doorways or passageways or where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic. Or, use a barricade to keep traffic or activity away from the ladder.
- Keep areas clear around the top and bottom of ladders.
- Do not move, shift, or extend ladders while they are in use.
- Use ladders equipped with nonconductive side rails if the worker or the ladder could contact exposed, energized electrical equipment.
- Face the ladder when moving up or down, and maintain three points of contact—for example, two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand—with the steps, rungs, and/or side rails of the ladder at all times.
- Use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing.
- Do not carry objects or loads that could cause loss of balance and falling.
Additional OSHA requirements:
- Wooden ladders must not be coated with any opaque covering, except for identification or warning labels, which must be placed only on one face of a side rail.
- A competent person must inspect ladders for visual defects periodically and after any incident that could affect safety.
- Do not use single-rail ladders.
- Never use the top or top step of a stepladder as a step.
- Portable ladders with structural defects must immediately be marked as defective or tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar wording and taken out of service until they are repaired.
- Fixed ladders with structural defects must be taken out of service until they are repaired.
- The minimum clear distance between side rails for all portable ladders must be 11.5 inches.
- Rungs and steps of portable metal ladders must be corrugated, dimpled, coated, or treated to minimize slipping.
- If the total length of the climb on a fixed ladder is 24 ft or greater, the ladders must be equipped with ladder safety devices, self-retracting lifelines and rest platforms, or a cage or well with multiple ladder sections.
- Each step or rung of a fixed ladder must be able to support a load of at least 250 pounds.