5 Tips for Ladder Safety

In Australia from 2008 to 2011, 123 construction workers died from work-related injuries, with falls from height accounting for 25% of fatalities (31 deaths) and ladders involved in 11 of the deaths.

Why Ladder Safety Matters

Ladders are an essential tool for many construction sites, but they can also be a major source of injury and even death. In Australia from 2008 to 2011, 123 construction workers died from work-related injuries, with falls from height accounting for 25% of fatalities (31 deaths) and ladders involved in 11 of the deaths. This makes falls the leading cause of death in construction every year (WorkSafe ACT)

The dangers associated with ladders should not be underestimated; even a two metre ladder can injure, maim or kill if used incorrectly or without proper ladder safety precautions. It is important to take all necessary steps to ensure that ladders are used safely and securely on site, such as using the correct type of ladder for the job, inspecting it before use and ensuring that it is placed on a stable surface. Also, workers should always wear appropriate safety gear when using ladders and never exceed their own physical capabilities when climbing them.

Ladder Safety

The 5 Tips for Ladder Safety

1. The Right Ladder for the Job

When it comes to accessing high places, you should use caution and take all necessary ladder safety precautions. Where possible it’s usually best to work from ground level instead of using ladders; but, if a ladder must be used, it should only be for simple tasks or a short amount of time. Alternatives such as scaffolding and elevated work platforms should be considered prior to using a ladder.

Using a ladder safely is essential for any job that requires you to reach higher than your own height. It’s important to make sure the ladder selected is the right size, the right type for the job, and that it is in good working order.

When selecting a ladder, make sure it meets the appropriate standard: AS 1892.1:1996 Portable ladders Part 1: Metal; AS 1892.2:1992 Portable ladders Part 2: Timber and AS 1892.5:2020 Portable Ladders – Selection, safe use and care.

When selecting a ladder for a task it is important that it is designed and manufactured with safety features such as non-slip feet, safety locks and braces. Also, ensure the ladder is rated for the weight that it needs to carry – this includes the weight of the person plus any tools or supplies for the taks. Further, consider the type of ladder to be used for the task.For some tasks, an A-frame or extension ladder may be suitable, but a platform ladder may offer better safety. By selecting the right ladder for the task risk of an injury can be reduced.

2. Identify Damage and Defects

Ladder safety involves regular inspections by a competent trained person to help ensure that ladders are free from damage and defects. During such inspections, look for signs of damage, corrosion, wear and tear, or any other type of damage that may weaken the ladder’s structure and increase the likelihood of an accident. A ladder inspection checklist can help identify damage and defects.

Further, the environment that a ladder is being used and the construction materials of a ladder needs to considered i.e. aluminum ladders can be damaged by acids (SafeWork SA).

If a ladder is damaged or found to be defective it should be safely disposed or ‘tagged out’ and place aside until repaired.

Below is a screenshot of a digital ladder inspection checklist:

Portable Ladder Inspection Checklist

Safety, compliance and other checklists for your workplace. Complete digital checklists, audits and inspections for safety, compliance and improved profits with DIGI CLIP mobile forms.

3. Positioning

For stability, ladders must be placed on solid, level surfaces that can deal with the weight of the ladder, person and any equipment carried. If the surface is soft or uneven leg levelers, or stabilizers can be used to ensure stability.

When using a ladder ensure that the ladder has an inclination or angle of approximately 1:4 (one out and four upward) and that the ladder extends at least a meter over the structure that it is supported against. Ensure the ladder is positioned on a firm foundation and secure both ends of the ladder so it is secure. Further, safety accessories such as anti-slip gutter guards and stabilizers can be used as added controls.

Place a barrier or cautionary markers if there is a risk to pedestrians walking in the vicinity of, or underneath the ladder. If necessary, place warning signs or have somebody at the bottom of the ladder marshalling pedestrians away from the work area. Finally, in cases where a ladder is placed in the vicinity of a doorway, ensure the door is either wedged or secured open or locked shut.

4. Safe Use

When using a ladder the following safety rules should be adhered to:

  • only one person should be on a ladder at any given time
  • maintain three points of contact (e.g. two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot) with the ladder at all times
  • always climb and descend facing the ladder
  • do not carry anything when climbing or descending (use a tool belt or pouch)
  • keep your body centred between the sides of the ladder
  • do not lean sideways or over-reach
  • do not stand above the tread or rung on the ladder indicated as the maximum safe working height
  • only conduct light work from a ladder
  • make sure no one works underneath the ladder
  • follow the manufacturer’s instructions
  • use a non-conductive, insulated ladder for electrical work or near electrical hazards (SafeWork SA).

5. Physically Capable

To reduce the risk of an injury, the person using the ladder should be fit for the task and physically cable. Ladders are dangerous and often ladder falls result in injury and hospitalisation. In addition to injuries, many people die from falling off a ladder each year. The majority of deaths in Australia that occurred were due to individuals using ladders during home maintenance tasks, with the highest occurrence of ladder fall fatalities among males aged between 75 and 84 years.

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