While they may seem safer than a traditional step ladder, if platform ladders are not used correctly, they can still lead to serious injuries.
A platform ladder is a self-supporting portable step ladder with a platform provided at the highest intended standing level. The platform provides an area to stand on while working that can be a bit more comfortable than just standing on the step of a ladder.
Beware of these hazards when using platform ladders:
- Broken or damaged ladders
- Unstable or slippery ground surface
- Slippery substances on shoes or the ladder steps
- Climbing up or down in an unsafe manner
- Poor housekeeping near the ladder
- Using a ladder in a high-traffic area
- Close proximity to electrical dangers
Some (but not all!) platform ladders can be used by two workers at the same time. Before assuming two people can climb the same ladder, refer to the manufacturer’s user manual and the warning labels on the ladder to understand the weight limits and safety guidelines.
Always follow all manufacturer’s warnings for the specific type of ladder being used.
Before climbing a platform ladder, think about where and how it will be set up. Read and follow all the instructions provided with the ladder as well as the warnings on the ladder.
All four ladder feet must be set firmly on the floor or the ground. Do not set up a platform ladder on any unstable, loose, or slippery surface. Never place a ladder on top of other objects, like shelves, scaffolds, boxes, or pallets, to try to gain more height to access the work area.
OSHA Standard 1926.1053(b)(6) and 1910.23(c)(4) Ladders shall be used only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental displacement.
Do not set up a platform ladder in front of unlocked doors. When it is necessary to set up a ladder in an area like a passageway, doorway, or driveway, the ladder should be secured, and the area should be barricaded to keep traffic and pedestrians away from the ladder to avoid displacement.
Avoid electrical hazards! Look for overhead power lines before handling or climbing a ladder. Do not use a metal ladder near power lines or electrical equipment.
Do not use any portable ladder outdoors in high winds or stormy weather.
Ladder inspections are required! The OSHA Construction standard states that ladders must be inspected on a periodic basis and the General Industry standard states that ladders must be inspected before the first time they are used each shift.
During a ladder inspection look at all the working parts, bolts, rivets, step-to-side rail connections, and the condition of the anti-slip feet.
OSHA Construction Standard 1926.1053(b)(15) Ladders shall be inspected by a competent person for visible defects on a periodic basis and after any occurrence that could affect their safe use.
If the ladder is damaged, if there are missing parts, or if you find any other hazardous defect, remove it from service and tag it. The ladder must be repaired before it can be used again or properly discarded. Never use a damaged ladder!
OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.23(b)(9) The employer must ensure ladders are inspected before initial use in each work shift, and more frequently as necessary, to identify any visible defects that could cause employee injury.
When storing ladders on racks when they are not in use, make sure the racks have enough support points for the length of the ladder. If there is not enough support for the ladder it can warp over time.
Never place other materials on top of ladders in storage.
Most ladder use safety tips apply to all portable ladders, including platform ladders.
All workers using a ladder must face the ladder when climbing up and down and maintain 3-point contact (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand). Use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing.
OSHA Standard 1926.1053(b)(21) and 1910.23(b)(12) Each employee shall use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when progressing up and/or down the ladder.
The braces on the rear of a ladder are not intended for climbing or standing and must not be used for that purpose.
Maintain good housekeeping in the areas near ladders in use.
Never climb from one ladder to another.
Never attempt to move the ladder without first descending, relocating the ladder, and then re-climbing. Do not “walk” or “shift” a ladder while you are standing on it.
Do not carry objects or loads while climbing a ladder that could cause loss of balance.
Do not use a portable step ladder in a closed position or in a partially open position.
Never exceed the ladder’s maximum load rating. Consider your weight plus the weight of your load including all tools, materials, and equipment.
Prevent falls and falling object hazards when using platform ladders. Do not move or shift a ladder while a person, tools, or equipment is on the ladder.
Do not leave tools, materials, or equipment on a platform ladder when it is not in use. It is very easy to forget about these items and then, when the ladder is shifted, the tools can quickly become falling object hazards.
OSHA Standard 1926.1053(b)(11) and 1910.23(c)(6) Ladders shall not be moved, shifted, or extended while occupied.
When transporting ladders on vehicles equipped with ladder racks make sure that the ladders are properly supported. Overhang of the ladders beyond the support points of the rack should be minimal.
It is best if the support points are made of material like wood or rubber-covered pipe to minimize the effects of vibration, chafing, and road shock.
To reduce the damaging effects of road shock, secure the ladder to each support point on the ladder rack.