Construction tasks often require workers to be on working surfaces that are above ground level. The use of an extension ladder provides easy access to those elevated areas. If improperly used, extension ladders can lead to serious injuries or even fatal incidents.
Workers must be trained in ladder safety and must follow safe ladder use guidelines each time they use an extension ladder to avoid injury or worse.
Remember, always use the ladder as intended and follow all manufacturer’s warnings for the specific type of ladder you are trained to use.
OSHA Standard 1926.21(b)(2) The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.
There are five common categories of duty ratings used by manufacturers of ladders. Always look for the rating of the ladder on the stickers and warning labels of the specific ladder used.
- Never exceed the ladder’s maximum load rating.
- Always include the weight of all tools, materials, equipment, and the individual using the ladder when selecting which type of ladder to use.
OSHA Standard 1926.1053(b)(3) Ladders shall not be loaded beyond the maximum intended load for which they were built, nor beyond their manufacturer's rated capacity.
Ensure extension ladders are placed at a proper angle before climbing up and when in use.
For every four feet high, the base of the extension ladder should be one foot out away from the wall or other surface it is leaning against. For example: If the ladder is 20 feet high the base should be moved away from the wall or other sturdy structure by 5 feet.
ALWAYS lean the extension ladder on a stable structure that can withstand the intended load when in use. Do Not lean extension ladders against unstable surfaces such as stacked boxes or materials.
ALWAYS allow at least 3 feet (36 inches) of the extension ladder to extend above the edge or point of support when used to reach another surface. NEVER stand on the three top rungs of an extension ladder.
OSHA Standard 1926.1053(b)(5)(i) Non-self-supporting ladders shall be used at an angle such that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is approximately one-quarter of the working length of the ladder (the distance along the ladder between the foot and the top support).
Never attempt to extend or raise the height of an extension ladder while a worker is on the ladder!
Avoid using extension ladders in front of aisleways, doors, or driveways. A ladder can become displaced by doors being opened or foot and equipment traffic can cause workers to fall off the ladder.
If you must use ladders where people or equipment could get near the ladder, set up barricades, warning tape, and safety signs.
OSHA Standard 1926.1053(b)(8) Ladders placed in any location where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic, such as in passageways, doorways, or driveways, shall be secured to prevent accidental displacement, or a barricade shall be used to keep the activities or traffic away from the ladder.
Extension ladders are heavy and bulky, and they can be awkward and difficult to carry. Follow these tips when handling extension ladders:
If you are working alone:
- Place the bottom of the ladder (feet end) up against the wall or structure.
- Begin lifting the top of the ladder over your head while walking towards the wall or structure.
If the extension ladder is too heavy or long to handle safely by yourself, ensure there are at least two people available to move the ladder.
If transporting extension ladders with vehicles, consider using assistive devices like a drop-down ladder rack to make it easier to load and unload the ladder.
To prevent potential back injuries, avoid overreaching or twisting your body when lifting an extension ladder.