Ladder safety at work and home


Injuries have occurred at the UW while personnel were using ladders on the job. These incidents show that using ladders can be dangerous if not used properly. Before you use a ladder at work or at home, make sure you take the necessary safety precautions.

What went wrong in the recent UW incidents?

  • A person fell off a ladder when overreaching.

  • Someone could not find a step ladder for a job, and instead used an orchard ladder (tripod type ladder), and fell to the ground when it tipped over.

  • Another person hit their head when climbing a ladder. 

  • Some people got ergonomic injuries using ladders to reach a higher work area repeatedly or while working overhead with heavy tools.

In some cases, a ladder may not be the correct device for the work. A scissor lift, mobile elevated platform or scaffolding may be more appropriate. If a ladder must be used, avoid these common errors that can result in falls and serious injuries:

  • Using the wrong ladder (size/type/weight limit)

  • Bad support (soft ground, not secured)

  • Lack of inspection (damaged ladder)

  • Lack of 3-point contact

  • Lack of training

Follow these steps whether using ladders at work or at home.

Choose the Right Ladder

Using the wrong ladder can be dangerous. Think about the task at hand; choose the right size and type. Consider:safe ladder height

  • How high do you need to reach?
  • How much weight will the ladder need to hold?

  • Is it an indoor or outdoor job? Orchard ladders should only be used outdoors for gardening or landscaping activities.

  • Inspect the ladder and do not use if damaged, defective or if the steps are greasy.

  • Use a fiberglass ladder if electrical contact may occur.

Start with a Firm Foundation

No matter what kind of ladder you're using, place the base on a firm, solid surface and avoid unstable, slippery, wet or soft surfaces.

  • If you must put the ladder on a soft surface, place a board under the ladder's feet.
  • Place a straight or extension ladder one foot away from the surface it's resting on for every four feet of the ladder's height.

  • Make sure straight or extension ladders extend three feet above the roof or platform you're trying to reach.

  • Securely fasten straight or extension ladders to an upper support.

  • Make sure step ladders are opened completely and spreaders locked before climbing.

  • Guard doorways near any ladder so no one can open it and knock you off.

  • Never place a ladder on a box, barrel or other object to gain height.

Climb and Do Work with Care

If you use ladders frequently, don’t become complacent. Make sure every time you step on a ladder you are mindful of the task at hand.Safe ladder ratio

  • Never use a ladder if you feel dizzy or ill.
  • Face the ladder and grip the rungs, not the side rails.

  • Always keep three points of contact with the ladder: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.

  • Do not stand higher than the third step from the top.

  • Don't lean or overreach; reposition the ladder instead.

  • Don't climb while carrying tools; use a tool belt or pull up bucket on a rope from below.

  • Wear slip-resistant shoes.

  • Never have someone climb up to bring you something; only one person should be on a ladder at a time.

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