National Ladder Safety Month and Essential Tips for Safe Climbing

Did you know that March is National Ladder Safety Month? You may be wondering why ladder safety is so important. Well, let’s take a look at some statistics:

  • Every year, over 500,000 people get injured due to ladder-related falls.
  • Falls from ladders account for over 300 deaths annually.
  • The cost to the U.S. for work loss, medical, legal, liability and pain and suffering expenses from falls is around $24B per year.
  • Ladders are ranked #3 on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations list.
  • Falls are among the top 3 most common workplace injuries that result in disability.

Are you trying to get something down from the top shelf? Are you hanging decorations? Are you changing a lightbulb? Are you painting a room? Ladder incidents can happen anywhere, at home or work, and are not limited to a particular industry.

Essential Steps before Climbing

  • User – Make sure you are not dizzy or prone to losing balance before climbing.
    • State of mind – Distraction could lead to incidents. Paying attention to the climb and being mindful of the job is essential.
    • Proper Footwear – Make sure you are wearing non-slip, flat footwear. Clean the soles of your shoes to maximize traction.
  • Choosing the Right Ladder
    • Duty rating – A duty rating is the total weight your ladder will support. Remember, a taller ladder does not automatically equate to a higher weight rating. You can find the duty rating needed for the job by adding together your weight, the weight of your PPE and the weight of your tools and supplies.
    • Length of the ladder – You should never stand on a ladder’s top step or cap. If you feel the need to stand on the top cap, it is advised to use a taller ladder.
    • Extension ladders – The top 3 rungs of an extension ladder should not be used for climbing. Conversely, if the ladder extends more than 3 feet beyond the upper support point, it is too long and could be prone to slide out.
  • Environment
    • Location – Ensure the ladder is on firm, level ground. Check that you are not in a path of egress where someone could walk into your ladder or strike the ladder with a door.
    • Weather – If you are using the ladder outdoors, ensure the weather is safe. Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.
  • Ladder Condition
    • Inspect ladders before each use to confirm they are in good working condition. If the ladder shows any signs of damage during the inspection, do not use it. You should also immediately tag any damaged ladder and secure it from use.
    • Ladder rungs – Look for loose, broken, or missing rungs.
    • Ladder side rails – Check for cracked, loose or broken side rails.
    • Bottom or safety feet – Ensure the ladder is equipped with bottom or safety feet.
    • Connecting elements – All bolts, screws and rivets should be tight and in good condition.
    • Cleanliness – The ladder should be free of grease, oil and dirt.
    • Spreaders – Does the locking mechanism work? Is the spreader straight?
    • Rope – Is it in good condition? Does it show signs of wear, fraying or cuts?

Tips when Using a Ladder

  • Maintain 3-point contact while climbing – You can grasp with both hands and support with one foot, or support with both feet while grasping with one hand.
  • Use a tool belt or have an assistant help with tools and materials.
  • Do not lean away from the ladder to carry out the task. Keep your weight (or the center of your stomach) centered between the side rails.
  • Do not work on the top cap of an A-Frame ladder or on the top 3 rungs of an extension ladder.