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Western Kentucky University

Environmental Health and Safety - Ladder Safety

Ladder Safety

Ladders are a very useful tool  to access items or areas beyond our reach.  They can also be very dangerous if not used correctly.  It is important to select the correct ladder length and type of ladder for the task to be performed.  Ladders come in different lengths, weight limits, and they come in wood, aluminum, and fiber glass.  Never choose an aluminum ladder for any kind of electrical work, or when working close to a live uninsulated electrical line.  Ladders have a duty  rating from light duty up to extra heavy duty and a weight capacity of  200 pounds up to 375 pounds. Weight capacity includes the weight of worker plus any tools or materials that would be on the ladder.

Inspected all ladders before each use for cracks, loose rungs, missing parts, slippery surfaces, and stability.  On extension ladders check the rope and pulley mechanism and locking supports.  If the ladder does not pass inspection tag out and do not use.  When placing the ladder for a job do not block doorways or any means of egress.  If work must be done in a busy area barricade around ladder.   Place on firm, stable and level ground or surface.  Ladders should not be placed on boxes, barrels, back of a pickup truck, or other unstable bases.  When using extension ladders the top of the ladder must be three feet beyond the landing.  Each section of the extension ladder must overlap three feet for ladders up to 32 feet, by four feet for ladders 32 feet to 48 feet and by five feet for ladders 48 to 60 feet in length. .  The base of the ladder should be one foot from the building for every four feet of ladder length extending up to the resting position. 

Face the ladder when  ascending or descending and maintain three points of contact; either two hands and a foot, or two feet and one hand.  Wear a tool belt to transport tools or pull them up with a line once at work location.  Do not over extend your reach while on the ladder, maintain centered between rails.  There should be on one person on a ladder at any given time.  Do not jump the ladder from location to location, descend and reposition ladder.  The top two steps and platform of a stepladder are not for working from.  Lower an extension ladder before moving from one location to another.  Never use a ladder when you feel dizzy or light headed.  Do not twist backwards or raise up on the balls of your feet to gain an extra inch or so. 

Store ladders in a dry space that is well ventilated and away from heat and moisture.  If stored horizontally, support the ladder at several points to avoid sagging.  Store ladders where they can be easily accessed and where they can be inspected.

When transporting a ladder that is light enough to manage comfortably hold the ladder by the middle of one of the siderails with the front tipped slightly up.  Make certain the front and back ends of the ladder do not swing into anything or anyone. For longer heavier ladders get help with transporting, set up, and while on the ladder.

Remember ladders can be a useful tool but if a ladder can not be placed in a position where the job can be done safely other options are available. 

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 Last Modified 9/25/14