OSHA's Ladder Safety Outreach
Ladder safety should be paramount on any employer's checklist whether they employ building maintenance staff, construction workers, landscapers, or anyone who needs to perform a task that's out of reach.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls are the leading cause of death in construction (in 2010, there were 264 fall fatalities out of 774 total fatalities). As part of a campaign to prevent falls, and save lives overall, OSHA published an e-book in both English and Spanish on ladder safety. This is part of a larger outreach to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs.
In an article in SHRM: Society for Human Resource Management, OSHA is hoping that by putting this information in an electronic format, this will allow Latinos and Millennials (people whom the agency considers high risk for injuries from falls) to easily view it on their smartphones while at the work site. It is suggested in the article that ladders, while commonly used, might not always be the best option.
OSHA recommends the following steps: plan, provide, and train. When planning ahead to get the job done safely, the agency urges workers and employers to consider the following:
- Will a worker have to hold heavy items while on the ladder?
- Is the elevated area high enough that it would require a long ladder that could be unstable?
- Will a worker be performing tasks from this height for a long time?
- Does the worker have to stand on the ladder sideways to do the work required?
OSHA advises that if the answer is yes to one of the above questions, then an employer should provide and an employee should use something other than a ladder. Equipment such as a scissor lift could be a better and safer option. Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To ensure a safe working environment, it's necessary to have not only the right equipment for the job, but also the proper safety gear for protection against falling.
Workers who understand the proper setup and use of equipment dramatically reduce the chance that they will be injured. Therefore, training on the specific equipment they will use should be mandatory. It's the responsibility of the employer to provide training that also includes hazard recognition and the correct care of the equipment in addition to how it's used on the job.
OSHA has provided numerous materials and resources that employers can use. The SHRM article offers a few safety measures to take when using ladders:
- First ensure that the ladder has no visible defects and is in good working condition (no bent or missing steps and a functioning locking device if so equipped).
- Use a ladder that's high enough to reach the work area without having to stand on the top rung.
- Secure the ladder's base.
- Wear proper footwear -- for example, nonslip, flat shoes.
- Place the ladder on stable, level ground.
- Ensure that the ladder is fully extended before starting work.
- Prevent passers-by from walking under or near ladders by using barriers such as cones or having a co-worker act as a lookout.
- Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times (one foot and two hands, two feet and one hand).
- Don't carry any tools or materials by hand when climbing a ladder.
- Don't lean away from the ladder to perform a task. Workers should always keep their weight centered.
- Don't use a ladder near a doorway, or if this is necessary, then make sure the door is locked.