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OSHA’s Rules and Requirements for Ladder Safety

As common as they are in the workplace, ladders should not be overlooked as an everyday job site hazard. In fact, falls from portable ladders are among the leading causes of occupational injuries and fatalities, according to OSHA. Similar to any other equipment or tool, the more you use a ladder, the higher the chances of its failure. Research suggests that the likelihood of an employee abusing and misusing a ladder is higher than the likelihood of them using it correctly in the workplace.

If you are in charge of your organization’s safety and compliance, it is crucial to be familiar with OSHA’s ladder regulations (1910.23). Those who oversee the maintenance of equipment and facilities should also be familiar with these ladder regulations and best practices for safe and proper ladder usage, inspection, maintenance, and training on a job site.

Ladder Usage and Operation

It is crucial to know how to use a ladder safely and effectively to eliminate potential ladder accidents. You should understand the nearby hazards associated with ladder usage, how to set a ladder up properly, and how to use one for its intended purpose. Below are the OSHA’s guidelines to ladder usage and operation regulations.

  • You should use ladders exclusively for the purposes for which they were designed.
  • You should face the ladder as you climb it up or down.
  • The ladder is only ready for use when the steps, rungs, and cleats are levelled, parallel, and uniformly spaced.
  • While climbing up or down, you should not carry any load or object that can make you lose balance and fall.
  • You should use at least one hand to hold the ladder when climbing up and down.
  • You must not load a ladder beyond its manufacturer’s rated capacity nor beyond its maximum intended load.
  • You should keep areas clear around the bottom and top of a ladder while in use.
  • You should use a barricade to keep activities or traffic away from the ladder while in use.
  • You should not move, shift, or extend a ladder while in use.
  • You should use a ladder only on a stable and level surface unless the surface is secured or equipped with slip-resistant feet. Note that slip-resistant feet does not substitute the need to exercise care while placing, holding, or lashing a ladder on slippery surfaces.
  • If you place ladders in doorways, driveways or passageways, or any place with workplace activities or traffic, secure them to prevent accidental movement.
  • If you or the ladder can come in contact with any powered electrical equipment, you should use a ladder that is equipped with non-conductive side rails.
  • You must not fasten or tie ladders together in order to create longer sections unless those ladders are specifically manufactured for that use.
  • When using two or more ladders to reach elevated work area, you must offset them with a platform or landing between them. This does not apply when you use a portable ladder to gain access to a fixed ladder.

Ladder Equipment Inspection

You should inspect your ladder or ladder systems regularly to help identify hazards, defects, and abnormalities that could easily compromise the ladder or safety of the user. You must inspect the ladder for visual defects frequently, as well as after an incident that could compromise their structural integrity or safe use.

OSHA’s guidelines for ladder inspection include:

  • Making sure ladder surfaces are free of puncture and laceration hazards
  • Inspecting the ladder before the initial use in every work shift and periodically while in use to help spot any visible defects
  • Immediately tagging a ladder “Dangerous: Do Not Use” or with a similar language if it has any defects and removing it from service until it is repaired or replaced

Ladder Equipment Maintenance

It is important to properly maintain your ladders during the course of their service life. Routine maintenance helps a ladder remain in proper working condition that is safe for continued use.

The OSHA’s guidelines for ladder maintenance requires workers to:

  • Frequently maintain ladders to ensure they are free of grease, oil, and any other slipping hazard
  • Not coat wooden ladders with material that can obscure structural defects (warning or identification labels must be placed on the outer face of a side rail)

Training on a Job Site

Employers have the responsibility to train all their employees to recognize ladder and stairway-related hazards. They should also instruct their employees on how they can minimize these hazards. OSHA requires employers to retrain every employee as necessary to maintain their understanding of the construction and safe use of stairs and ladders.

Ladders are an excellent tool when used for the purpose for which they are designed. To ensure crewmembers use them properly, employers are expected to cover the following topics regarding ladder or stairway training on a job site.

  • The nature of fall hazards in the work area
  • The right procedures to erect, maintain, and disassemble fall protection systems
  • The proper ways to construct, use, place, and care for all ladders and stairways
  • The maximum intended load capacities of the ladders used on the job site

Get the Supplies and Training You Need

Ladder safety starts even before you step foot on one. All ladder operators within your organization must adhere to the guidelines and standards that OSHA provides for ladders. At Certified Slings & Supply, we offer fall protection solutions for organizations that have workers at height. Contact us for personal fall protection and fall solutions on rigid rail systems. We are always ready and willing to serve you.

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