Ladder Safety

Ladders are a simple device for safe climbing. That may be their biggest fault. Workers using them tend to mistake simplicity for harmlessness, forgetting precautions or rules of proper use. That kind of mistake every year causes thousands of accidents and disabling injuries.

Most accidents with straight ladders are caused by the ladder's skidding or slipping. This is easy enough to prevent. Equip the ladder with nonslip base like safety feet, for example, or block the base of the ladder.

Lashing the ladder is another precaution against it moving or slipping, and to make sure the lashing is there when it's needed, permanently attach a short length of rope to a side rail. Also, make sure the ladder is placed at a safe angle so that the distance from the wall to the base of the ladder is about 1/4 the distance from the base to the ladder's top support.

Once the ladder is properly in place, step into it facing the rungs and grasping the rails with both hands. Do not hurry up the rungs, but climb one at a time. Never try to carry tools or anything else up the ladder because hands should be free for climbing. It's safest to hang tools in a sack or from a strap placed over the shoulder or to use a bucket or line to haul them up later.

While working on a ladder, don't try to reach out too far, but move the ladder as work requires. Never go higher than the third rung from the top on a straight ladder.

Remember, if the ladder is in good condition and is the right one for the job, then a simple device for climbing is a safe one too.

Portable ladders are a simple and effective means for safe climbing except for one major problem. Workers sometimes find portable ladders easy to use that they neglect normal precautions and safety rules. The result, too often, is an incident.

Most ladder accidents can be avoided by following the three basic rules of ladder safety.

1. No ladder is safe unless it is the right type and right size for the job

2. No ladder is safe if it is missing rungs, if its rungs or rails are defective, if it is poorly built, or if is in a weakened condition.

3. No ladder is safe unless the person using it takes common sense precautions.

For more information on safe use of ladders consult the NCSU Safety & Health Management Plan and your Supervisor for training.

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