Proper Ladder Use: The following requirements will help avoid citations and violations

By Chuck Kelly | Jun 15, 2022
Extended wooden ladder. Image by
While fall protection continues to be the most cited OSHA violation, OSHA’s 1926.1053 standard (stairways and ladders) is not far behind.

While fall protection continues to be the most cited OSHA violation, OSHA’s 1926.1053 standard (stairways and ladders) is not far behind.

Ladder violations have continually ranked in the top 10 OSHA violations for the last several years. But why? Many would think that climbing a ladder is simple. Users should always maintain three points of contact; always face the ladder when ascending or descending; and never free-carry tools when climbing, but instead have them in a tool belt or hoisted once getting to the work zone. If using an extension ladder, always ensure the top extends 3 feet above the landing.

However, citations are still issued for placing ladders in unsafe positions and on uneven surfaces, and for using damaged ladders or the wrong weight class ladders for jobs.

How many times have you seen a ladder being used improperly? Probably more than you remember, so we need to start focusing on the safety basics. High-hazard work areas continue to see a decrease in recordable accidents and fatalities, but slips, trips and falls, fall protection, scaffolding and ladders continue to be a problem. These violations add up and can set you up for a repeat citation if you do not get them under control.

Here are some basic requirements for daily use of ladders.

Two examples

Stepladders: Confirm that you are using the proper ladder. To do this, consider the employee’s weight and the weight of the load. A visual inspection of the stepladder must be done on a periodic basis and before each use to ensure the device’s integrity. During this inspection, you should look for any structural damage and any foreign substance that could make the rungs slippery while climbing. Pay special attention to the areas where there are nonmanufacturing stickers, because they can hide defects.

Ensure the spreaders are in the lock position. Check for overhead dangers, such as electrical lines, and if in a high-traffic area, ensure that a barricade is placed around the ladder to warn oncoming pedestrian or vehicle traffic. Most of all, make sure the ladder is in a stable position to eliminate any movement.

Extension ladders: A visual inspection must take place before using the extension ladder, and it is important to look for any defects in the rungs, bolts, screws or other components that may be loose. If these are found and corrections cannot be made, the ladder should be marked “Do Not Use,” or something similar. Again, you need to consider the load rating of the ladder and take into account employee and load weights.

One of the most important requirements for using an extension ladder is the proper angle to set it at. The bottom of the ladder should be one-quarter of the ladder’s working length away from the wall. If a worker needs to access an elevated work surface from the ladder, users are required to extend the top of the ladder 3 feet beyond that surface. If that is not possible, you will need to secure the ladder at its top. Again, check the surrounding area for any potential hazards and execute the necessary safety measures for the job.

The same principles can be applied to indoor and outdoor ladder use.

Safety requirements

  • In general, there are several requirements everyone must follow when using any type of ladder, whether indoors or outside.
  • Always maintain three points of contact (two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand).
  • Always face the ladder when climbing or ascending.
  • Keep your body inside the ladder rails. If you must lean outside the rails, you need to ensure that you and the ladder are tied off to prevent falling.
  • Always carry tools for the job in a tool belt or have them hoisted to you once you reach the work zone.
  • Place a barricade, when necessary, to protect yourself and others from contacting the ladder while in use.
  • Always check the surrounding area for external hazards that may cause harm.
  • The OSHA regulation goes into greater detail on the compliance aspects of ladder safety, but following these simple rules will ensure that you and others are not injured when using a ladder.

Header image by Getty Images / MyiStock88.

About The Author

KELLY, president of Kelly Consulting & Mediation Services, has worked with utility industry leaders on safety, labor relations and human resources for more than 30 years. Reach him at 540-686-0118 or [email protected].





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