Many industries require workers to access elevated areas, indoors or outdoors, and an extension ladder is a useful tool to have around, if needed. 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 1910.30(a)(3) The employer must train each employee in at least the following topics: the nature of the fall hazards in the work area and how to recognize them and the procedures to be followed to minimize those hazards.
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 1910.23(c)(3) Ladders are not loaded beyond the maximum intended load. The maximum intended load includes the total load (weight and force) of the employee and all tools, equipment and materials being carried.
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 1910.23(c)(11) Portable ladders used to gain access to an upper landing surface have side rails that extend at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface.
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 1910.23(c)(7) Ladders placed in locations such as passageways, doorways, or driveways where they can be displaced by other activities or traffic: are secured to prevent accidental displacement; or are guarded by a temporary barricade, such as a row of traffic cones or caution tape, 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.