Toolbox Talk: Portable Ladder Safety

Toolbox Talk: Portable Ladder Safety

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction and every year, falls from ladders make up nearly a third of those deaths. These deaths are preventable. Falls from ladders can be prevented and lives can be saved by following the safe work practices described below.

General Requirements for all Ladders

  • All employees shall receive training before using a ladder at work.
  • All portable ladders shall be clearly marked with their rated capacity, with a minimum Type I or II rating (> 225 lbs.) Type III ladders (200 lb. limit) shall not be used for construction work.
  • Employees shall visually inspect ladders for defects and damage before each use. Damaged ladders shall be removed from service.
  • Ensure ladders are positioned on level ground and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Use non-conductive ladders (fiberglass preferred) when performing electrical tasks.
  • Do not sue makeshift or home-made ladders or carry out makeshift repairs to a damaged ladder.
  • Be sure to clear the ground area around the ladder before climbing.
  • Check the ladder carefully for any cracks or loose pieces.
  • Always wear proper footwear with good tread when climbing.
  • Watch for people working under or around the ladder.
  • Keep your body centered on the middle of the ladder by keeping your belt buckle within the side rails at all times. Do not lean to reach for items while standing on the ladder.
  • Face the ladder when ascending or descending.
  • Use the “3-Point Rule”: At least two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, should be in contact with the ladder when ascending or descending.
  • Get someone to assist you when working with a ladder.
  • Avoid lifting or carrying any heavy items while climbing up or down the ladder.
  • Choose the appropriate ladder for the task.

Use a Stepladder Safely

Stepladders are commonly used in the construction industry, but they require careful use. They are not designed for any degree of side loading and are relatively easily overturned. Avoid over-reaching. People have been killed getting down from workplaces such as loft spaces when they have stepped onto the top step of a stepladder which then overturned.

  • Make sure all four feet of the ladder are on a firm, dry, level surface.
  • Only use stepladders in a fully open position. Lock the side braces and cross braces before climbing.
  • Do not use a stepladder as a straight ladder in a folded and leaning position.
  • Do not stand on the top two steps of the ladder.
  • Do not use stepladders to support work platforms.

Using an Extension/Straight Ladder Safely

  • To ensure a safe position, the horizontal distance from the support structure to the foot of the ladder shall be ¼ the working length of the ladder (example: A 20’ extension ladder should have its base 5’ from the bottom of the wall).
  • When using a portable ladder for access to an upper landing surface, the side rails must extend at least three feet above the upper landing surface.
  • Tie-off or otherwise secure the top of extension/straight ladders to ensure stability.
  • Do not stand on the top 3 steps of an extensions/straight ladder.

Like any tool, ladders must be used properly to ensure employee safety. By following the above ladder safety rules, you greatly reduce your chances of being injured while working on ladders. Remember, the life you safe will be your own!