The safe use of mobile ground ladders is often overlooked, as many employers assume employees know how to use them, since it is equipment used in most households. Any assumption when it comes to safety is a potential hazard.
A ground ladder safety policy sets expectations of use for employees, in the safe operation of the equipment in the workplace.
A policy on ground ladder safety should set expectations of what sort of ladders are used in the workplace, how to safely use the ladders, and inspection requirements.
Ground ladders require special inspections and care for use.
Even if they don’t regularly use ladder , especially if not regularly, employees should be trained on how to inspect ground ladders using the checklist attached to the policy as part of their pre-use inspection.
- Before starting your project, you should check to make sure you’re using the right ladder for the job. There are a few different types of ladders (extension/straight, fixed access, tripod orchard, and stepladder), but if you’re completing household tasks, like putting up lights or clearing gutters, you’ll likely be using either a straight ladder or stepladder depending on the height.
- Regardless of the ladder you’re using, be sure to check the load rating. The load rating needs to cover your weight AND the weight of your tools. You should also consider the material that your ladder is made of and whether it’s appropriate for your intended use. Aluminum and steel ladders conduct heat and electricity and should never be used for electrical work. Fiberglass and wood ladders are suitable for electrical work, but wood ladders are especially vulnerable to damage and decay. No matter what type of ladder you’re using, you should always inspect it, check for cracks, and ensure the frame, rungs, and feet are not compromised.
- During Work:
- When placing your ladder, make sure that the footing is on a firm, non-slip surface that is clear of any debris or hazards. You can also reduce the risk of a fall by wearing non-slip shoes and gloves. If you have to adjust the placement of the ladder, avoid pushing or pulling it from the sides – repeated sideways movement can make ladders wobbly since they are weaker in those directions. When you’re using any type of portable ladder, use the 4:1 ratio: for every four feet you go up, the ladder should be placed one foot out.
- You should always face the stepladder when climbing up or down and maintain a firm grip with both hands. You have climbed too high if your knees are above top of the stepladder or if you cannot maintain a handhold on the ladder – and never stand on the top rung or step. Before you climb, always look up for powerlines and other overhead hazards and adjust the placement of your ladder if needed.
- Taking care of your ladder is important to ensure that it remains in good condition and useable for your next project. After each use, you should clean your ladder and ensure that any moving parts are well lubricated. Inspect for damage such as broken rungs, split side rails, worn or broken safety feet, and oil or grease which can make climbing surfaces slippery.
- If your ladder is damaged, don’t try to repair it yourself. DIY repairs, such as tying or binding with wire, or painting over damaged areas, are not safe in the long-term and can hide cracks and weak points.
- To take good care of your ladder, be sure to store it inside on horizontal racks with support every 2 meters. Protect yourself and others when your ladder is stored by fixing it to the wall or racks so that it doesn’t fall or present other hazards.
- Monthly inspections:
- Every month, ladders should be thoroughly inspected and certified for use. This is often done off a large inspection sheet, or sometimes on a tag attached to the ladder, like with fire extinguishers.
When using a ladder, always be mindful of your individual circumstances as well. Do not use a ladder if you are affected by medication or a health condition that affects your balance. Before you start your project, always make sure that you have a plan in the case of an accident, and never use a ladder if you are working alone and cannot get help easily.
When a ladder is identified as damaged, a full checklist should be filled out to document the ladder damage prior to removal from use. When removing a ladder from service, it should be destroyed to ensure it is not accidentally placed back into service.