How to properly use a ladder and avoid injuries

Ladders are a common source of injury, but a few precautions and safety measures can prevent injury and death.

Ladders are a common source of injury, but a few precautions and safety measures can prevent injury and death.

Everyone from professionals in industry to amateurs working around their home have had to use a ladder to complete a task at some point. Unfortunately, their ubiquity means that despite their usefulness, they are a leading cause of injury, particularly in the workplace. 

For many tasks, ladders are simply unavoidable. Employers, employees, and even home-based users need to make sure they know how to properly use and store a ladder to reduce the likelihood of injury or even death. 

Ladder related injuries and deaths
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that falls from ladders remain a leading cause of injury in the United States. In the past decade, 43 percent of fatal falls were from a ladder. Among workers, about 20 percent of fatal falls involved a ladder. 

As with most accidents, the costs associated with injuries are extremely onerous for everyone involved. Employers can be hit with steep fines if they are found to be non-compliant with safety regulations, and even be shut down if they are guilty of multiple infractions. This is to say nothing of the potential legal fees and insurance claims that will most likely have to be paid out. Employees and other individuals can lose their wages if they have to take time off of work to heal, and some injuries can be long-lasting or even deadly. 

How to ensure ladder safety
As always, some injuries are simply unpreventable. Accidents do happen, but with the right training, they can be minimized. Here are some guidelines that OSHA recommends to make sure ladder users are safe during and after use

  • Read all labels and warnings on the ladder before set-up and use. 
  • Avoid exposed electrical material. Always make sure that the ladder is positioned as far away live electrical sources as possible.
  • Have a trained, competent person inspect the ladder before use. If there are any signs of damage or excessive wear, the ladder should not be used.
  • Use a three-point stance on the ladder. Make sure that at least 3 limbs are safely place on the ladder at all times, moving only one at a time.
  • Make sure the ladder is placed on a slip-free surface. Putting additional slip protection on each rung of the ladder can make climbing it even more safe.
  • Don't place the ladder where others will be constantly walking by it. 
  • Do not exceed the maximum load stated by the manufacturer.
  • When the ladder is not in use, make sure it is folded up, locked, and kept out of the way of other activities.