Using Ladders Safely – A Fall Could Kill

Source: Bjoern Wylezich - 123RF

According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in construction, and every year falls from ladders comprise nearly a third of those deaths.

Falls are a hazard found in many work settings. A fall can occur during walking or climbing a ladder to change a light fixture, or as a result of a complex series of events affecting an ironworker 80 feet above the ground.

These deaths are preventable. Falls from ladders can be prevented and lives can be saved by following safe work practices.

The agency has issued a guide in English and Spanish on the correct and safe use of ladders in the workplace.

The booklet was adapted from Falling off Ladders Can Kill: Use Them Safely, developed by the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Council, in collaboration with the Ministry of Manpower.

When you want to reach a higher work area, think about the best equipment to use. While a ladder or stepladder is commonly used, it may not always be the best option.

Ask yourself these questions before deciding on a ladder:

• Will I have to hold heavy items while on the ladder?

• Is the elevated area high enough that it would require a long ladder that can be unstable?

• Will I be working from this height for a long time?

• Do I have to stand on the ladder sideways in order to do this work?

If your answer is yes to one of the above questions, consider using something other than a ladder. If possible, bring in other equipment like a scissor lift.

If you have to use a ladder, use one that has a working platform with handrail barricades on the sides (e.g., a platform stepladder).

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), released a fact sheet for employers, workers, and safety professionals in the construction industry to help them prevent falls.

This fact sheet, which includes recommendations and a host of fall prevention-related resources, can support your participation in the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction and keep construction workers safe on the job.

The Ladder Safety App, NIOSH’s first mobile application, is designed to improve extension and step ladder safety — a concern for those working in construction or any other task that requires ladder use.