Ladder Safety

— Written By Trudy Pickett and last updated by

Who doesn’t know someone who has suffered an injury involving a ladder? These injuries are common, usually resulting in a broken bone, and most are often the result of carrying items while climbing the ladder.

A recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on ladder safety showed some startling statistics concerning the frequency and severity of ladder-related accidents in the United States. Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed. By understanding the causes of ladder accidents the vast majority could be prevented.

Ladder accidents are extremely common even though they are entirely preventable. Ladder accidents can come from a wide variety of issues, but the following four causes account for the vast majority and if the simple loss prevention tips for each cause are followed ladder accidents can almost be eliminated.

Like most other jobs, choosing the right tool can make all of the difference when it comes to safety and this is the same for ladders. One thing to consider when selecting an appropriate ladder is the ladder’s weight capacity. Each ladder is designed to support a maximum weight limit and added weight can cause accidents.

Another consideration when selecting the appropriate ladder for a job is the necessary height of the ladder. Many injuries occur due to ladders being too short for a specific task, and instead of selecting a new ladder for the job, workers will place the ladder on something to extend its reach or will stand on the top rung to gain the necessary height. Both scenarios are extremely dangerous and can result in serious injuries.

Another common contributing factor to ladder accidents is the use of old, worn, or damaged ladders. Like everything else, ladders have a shelf life; after a couple of years the stress of being climbed up and down on causes ladders to break down. Damaged ladders are extremely dangerous as they can easily break while being used and cause serious injuries. The pull-down ladder to your attic is in this category. Many of these in-house ladders will develop cracks or splits in the treads or become disconnected from the side rails of the ladder. Inspect before using to prevent injury! Is your attic ladder the age of your home? It may need to be replaced.

To protect yourself from damaged or broken ladders make sure to thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found do not use the ladder until it has been safely repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications or it has been replaced.

Human error is by far the leading cause of ladder accidents. Never use a ladder in any other way than what the manufacturer intended it to be used for. Also, do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way.

While using a ladder always maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder to ensure stability. Also, never attempt to reach for something while on the ladder, it is much safer to get off the ladder, move it, and then climb back up.

Make sure that when positioning a ladder the ground you place it on is level and firm. Ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked, or guarded.

A good practice to ensure a ladder is secure is to always have a helper support the base while a ladder is being used. If the ladder cannot be held by someone else make sure it has an appropriate base to prevent it from slipping. The feet of the ladder can be staked if you are using a ladder outside and no one is available to support the feet of the ladder.