Injuries and Illness, Personnel Safety

Ladder Safety Month: Prevent Injuries with Safe Work Practices

The American Ladder Institute (ALI) has designated March as National Ladder Safety Month, an opportunity to raise awareness and provide resources to decrease the number of ladder-related incidents. Kat Seiffert, marketing manager of the Chicago-based association, says the observance is in its second year and has garnered growing support from businesses and sponsors.

Worker climbing ladder

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One of the key messages of the month is the availability of free ladder safety training resources on ALI’s safety site, http://www.laddersafetytraining.org. The organization also offers a free ladder safety certificate program, which is growing in popularity and is mandated by a number of companies. The training follows the latest American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A14 standards.

The ALI says a number of factors contribute to falls from ladders. These include haste, sudden movement, lack of attention, worn or damaged ladder, user’s age or physical condition, and footwear. You can reduce the chance of falling during a climb by:

  • Wearing slip-resistant shoes with heavy soles.
  • Cleaning the soles to maximize traction.
  • Using towlines, a tool belt, or an assistant to convey materials so that hands are free when climbing.
  • Climbing slowly, deliberately, and avoiding sudden movements.
  • Never attempting to move a ladder while standing on it.

ALI’s most recent research studies reveal that many injuries and resulting citations are more likely caused by human error than by faulty equipment. Seiffert explains, “The top three reasons are almost always the same: missing the last step, overreaching, and not using three points of contact. It comes down to repeatedly reinforcing that those aspects need to be kept in mind every time you’re using a ladder.”

That’s the message Seiffert hopes employers will take away from National Ladder Safety Month: “The injuries your employees are sustaining are caused by things that can be mitigated and decreased through ongoing reinforcement of some really simple rules.” And while using complex ladders in high-hazard environments requires specialized training, “most injuries can be simply avoided.”

Safe Work Practices

To prevent ladder-related injuries, make sure employees know and follow these essential safety tips:

  • Use only ladders that are in good condition and designed to handle the climbing job that needs to be done.
  • Be sure stepladders are fully open and locked before climbing.
  • Place ladder on a flat, secure, hard surface, as it could sink into a soft surface.
  • Place ladder on a nonmovable base.
  • Lean ladder against a secure surface, not boxes or barrels.
  • Do not place ladder in front of a door.
  • Position base of ladder 1 ft away for every 4 ft of height to where it rests (1:4 ratio).
  • Ladder rails should extend at least 3 ft above top landing.
  • Check shoes to ensure they are free of grease or mud.
  • Mount the ladder from the center, not from the side.
  • Face ladders when ascending or descending, and hold on with both hands.
  • Carry tools in pockets, in a bag attached to a belt, or raised and lowered by rope.
  • Don’t climb higher than the third rung from the top.
  • Work facing the ladder.
  • Do not overreach; always keep your torso between the ladder rails.
  • When using a ladder for high places, securely lash or fasten the ladder to prevent slipping.
  • Avoid outdoor ladder use on windy days.
  • Avoid aluminum ladders for work around electrical wires or power lines.