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Falling from a ladder can be dangerous. Fortunately, ladder injuries from falls are preventable if workers think and inspect before they climb.

Choosing the correct ladder is important, but ensuring the ladder is properly inspected before getting on it is equally important to prevent injuries. Following are techniques and tips for ladder safety.

Select the ladder that is right for the job

The first step in ladder selection is choosing the right style of ladder for the jobfrom a step ladder to an extension ladder, there are a variety of options from which to choose. Different styles of ladders are designed to keep workers safe and productive when climbing or standing. Using the wrong ladder or simply ignoring the limitations of climbing equipment can result in a fall or serious injury. There are new styles of ladders that enable the user to have greater range of motion and make using a ladder more comfortable when standing for long periods of time.

Select the height: how high the worker needs to reach

Generally speaking, a person should first understand the height he or she needs to reach to safely accomplish the task at hand. For extension ladders, consider how the ladder is going to be used. If the project requires getting on a roof, the ladder must be able to extend 3 feet beyond the roofline. If the ladder will be leaned against a gutter or roofline, but the person will be working on the ladder, it must extend 1 foot above the roofline. An extension ladder can also be leaned against a wall or other surface.

Select performance: how much weight will be on the ladder

Ladders are designed and constructed to safely hold a specific amount of weight. Ladders come in different ratings identified by their grade and type. The load capacity is defined as the maximum safe weight load recommended for the ladder. A person’s fully clothed weight plus the weight of any tools and materials that are carried onto the ladder must be less than the load capacity. For example, a bundle of shingles weighs approximately 70 pounds, so a person’s weight plus that 70 pounds must be less than the ladder’s load capacity or duty rating.

Inspect before climbing

Ladder Safety 1After choosing the correct ladder, it is important to inspect the ladder thoroughly before each use. Even if all precautions have been taken by choosing the correct ladder and height, safety can be compromised if the ladder is not properly inspected before climbing.

  • Inspect for damaged or missing parts before each use. Never use a ladder with missing or damaged parts.
  • Check all parts for good condition. Lightly lubricate moving parts occasionally.
  • Never repair a damaged ladder without permission from the manufacturer.
  • Ensure there is no splitting in the rails or rivets of the ladder.
  • Replace the ladder if it is exposed to excessive heat or any corrosive agent. This can cause changes in the fiberglass, including appearance of the fibers, color shift and loss of glossiness.

Use Common Sense and Don’t Take a Ladder for Granted

Ladder Safety 2The Right Way
  • Properly set up and use the ladder in accordance with safety instructions and warnings. Also, it’s important to wear shoes with non-slip soles.
  • Prior to using a ladder or step stool, be certain that it is on a completely flat surface to prevent tipping. Also, ensure that the latch is completely engaged prior to standing on a step stool.
  • The body should be centered on the ladder with the waist between the rails while maintaining a firm grip on the ladder.
  • Climb facing the ladder, move one step at a time and firmly set one foot before moving the other one. This is important to remember on the descent as well. Don’t take any short cuts to get down quicker!
  • Have one person hold the ladder at the bottom while the other one performs the task.
  • Move materials with extreme caution so as not to lose balance or tip the ladder.
The Wrong Way
  • Don’t stand above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder. This is very important, as a worker can easily lose his or her balance and fall.
  • Don’t climb a ladder if not physically and mentally up to the task.
  • Don’t place the base of an extension ladder too close to, or too far away from, the building.
  • Don’t over-reach or lean to one side.
  • Don’t try to move a ladder while on it or from above. Climb down and then reposition the ladder.
  • Don’t exceed the maximum weight of a ladder.
  • Don't permit more than one person on an extension ladder.

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