Stay Off OSHA's Radar with an Effective Ladder Safety Program

Author, Casey Craig, Account Executive, Construction Group, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.

Year after year OSHA publishes the “Top 10 Most Cited Violations” and it always seems to include violations dealing with falls. Fall protection, scaffolding, ladders, and fall protection (training requirements) all made this list and all of them have been on this list perennially for over a decade. How can a company that is using ladders keep from becoming just another name on the list of violators? How can you ensure that your employees are using provided equipment properly?

Guy standing one leg on ladder and one leg on scaffold while painting house.

The biggest mistake made with work at height is letting your employees perform their work using materials that are not meant for that job. Employees finding a chair, bucket, or truck to stand on to get those couple extra feet are the easiest ways to lead to an accident. From A-frames to extensions and step stools, there is a perfect tool for the job at hand. It does take a little preparation before sending your employees onto the job site. Having your supervisors make sure ladders are properly set up and fully functional to ensure your employees safety is as important as training your employees how to use a ladder.

Ladders have not miraculously become safer over the years. The materials used in making ladders may have changed, but the injuries that occur from using them have been the same. Here are some common misuses:

  • Trying to overextend reach at the top of a ladder, instead of taking the time to get all the way to the bottom to move the ladder and maintain three points of contact.

  • Stepping off from the third rung instead of keeping three points of contact all the way to the ground.

  • Setting the ladder at the wrong angle before climbing (70-75 degrees is desirable).

  • Trying to move a 70 pound ladder without asking for help and losing control.

There are countless ways that rushing or not paying attention to detail can leads to injuries. The American Ladder Institute (ALI) claims all injuries that occur on a ladder are preventable with the proper attention to detail. If you know that a ladder has a bent rung, or the frame is compromised, the risk is not worth having an employee get on that ladder. Ladders are manufactured to withhold four times the weight they are rated for, but if damaged there is no telling what could make it catastrophically defective. Make sure that there is enough tread on the foot of the ladder to keep your ladder in place while working at height.

Now that we know a little about our exposure, let’s see what we can do to fix the problem. Making sure you have the right equipment is by far the most important step to keep you from running into a violation. Keep your employees trained in proper ladder safety, and only let the employees that have been trained on a ladder. Properly tie off ladders, maintain your equipment over time, and attend ladder safety seminars regularly. One huge tool that is underutilized in the construction industry is having a consultation meeting with OSHA. Have them come out and inform you of things you could be doing better without the worry of being fined. OSHA is meant to be a tool to keep your employees safe, don’t hesitate to use them.

For questions about ladder safety seminars or what policies may match your company’s risk, please contact Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc. at (619) 937-0164. We look forward to helping better your risk profile.