Ladders are one of the leading sources of workplace injury. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report eight-in-10 construction injuries treated in emergency rooms nationwide involve ladders. Most ladder injuries are the result of falls. Either a worker loses balance and falls off a ladder, or it’s unstable and tips over with a worker on it. Another big injury risk is electrocution when working near power lines. Your employees are at risk of ladder injuries each time they set foot on one. But most of those injuries are preventable, just by following some do’s and don’ts.

What your employees need to do to stay safe on a ladder

The first step toward ladder safety is choosing the right ladder for the job. And, the right ladder isn’t just the first one available or easiest one to carry.

If power lines are nearby, trade the aluminum ladder for a non-conductive one with wooden or fiberglass sides. Should an aluminum ladder come in contact with live power lines it immediately energizes. Workers are at risk of electrocution.

Other ladder safety tips include:

  • Inspecting the ladder for damage before use. Look for corrosion, cracks, splits, and bent edges.
  • Removing damaged ladders from service and tagging them as damaged.
  • Extending the ladder three feet above the landing—the three-foot rule).
  • Moving the base out at least one foot for every four feet of ladder height—The 4-to-1 ladder safety rule.
  • Securing the ladder in accordance with Cal/OSHA regulations.
  • Always maintaining three points of contact when climbing.
  • Making sure all locks on extension ladders are engaged to prevent a sudden retraction.
  • When moving a ladder, retracting it all the way and when possible having two people move it.

What your employees need to avoid when using a ladder

In order to maintain three points of contact on a ladder, never carry anything while climbing. Workers are encouraged to use a tool belt for small tools and a rope system for larger tools and other materials.

In addition:

  • Never place a ladder on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases to gain additional height. (Use a longer ladder instead).
  • Don’t move or shift a ladder with someone else on it.
  • When standing on a ladder, don’t try to “walk” the ladder by jerking or rocking it.
  • Don’t lean to one side or the other as this can cause the ladder to tip over.
  • Don’t tie or fasten ladders together to create longer ones.
  • Don’t overreach to one side or the other as this can cause the ladder to lose balance and fall.
  • Don’t jump off a ladder.

What to cover during your ladder safety training

Since each worksite is different, begin your safety meeting by addressing issues specific to that location. These include how close any power lines are to the work zone, the condition of the ground, and tight spaces. Make sure to discuss with your employees the challenges they’ll face when using a ladder.

Discuss how to inspect ladders and your process for taking them out of service when damaged.

Review your process for moving ladders and the dangers that come with it. Remind employees to collapse the ladder to its shortest possible length before moving it and to have someone help them move it.

Most ladder injuries are indeed preventable. Following the do’s and avoiding the don’ts helps keep your workers out of the emergency room and on the job.