In 2018, slightly more than 1,000 construction workers were killed nationwide. Of that number, 338 — or 33.5% — were caused by falls, with struck by object (11.1%) the next most common occurrence, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA cites falls from portable ladders — whether a step ladder, straight ladder, extension ladder or combination ladder — as one of the top causes of on-the-job injuries and fatalities.
Whether a construction worker is new to the profession or a seasoned veteran, it’s worth taking a few minutes to review OSHA’s guidance regarding ladder safety.
- Follow all instructions marked on the ladder.
- Check the ladder for damage before using it. Take it out of service if it’s damaged.
- Don’t use a metal ladder in the vicinity of electrical equipment or power lines.
- Make sure the ladder is fully opened and locked before using it.
- Always keep “three-point” control of the ladder. That means using two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot.
- Climb the steps in the middle.
- Face the ladder when climbing up it. When you reach the top, don’t use the top step or rung unless the ladder is designed for its use. Also, don’t stand on the top three rungs of an extension, single or straight ladder.
- Keep anything slippery off the ladder.
- Use a ladder that can support your weight and the weight of your tools. A maximum load should be listed on it.
- Use the ladder only on surfaces that are solid and level. Never, for example, put it on a box to give it more height.
- Don’t move the ladder while someone is on it.
- Secure the ladder or put a barricade around it if it is being used somewhere where other work activities could cause it to be knocked over.
Workplace safety is paramount. Unfortunately, even if you follow all the suggestions, ladder falls still can occur, and they can have tragic consequences. An injured worker, or the family of a worker who is killed, deserves compensation.