Tips on Ladder Safety

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Falls from ladders can result in serious injury, including permanent disability or death. Using a ladder properly requires training and following safety procedures.

Use the right ladder for the job and inspect it before using:

  • Always use an approved ladder, never a makeshift one.
  • Never use metal ladders in jobs or locations involving potential contact to electricity.
  • Look for cracks, bends, twists, or breaks in the rungs, steps, or side rails.
  • Look for broken or missing rivets or other fasteners, and loose hinges.
  • Make sure the rungs or steps are free of grease, dirt, etc.
  • Never paint a ladder, as paint can hide defects.

Set up the ladder properly:

  • Be sure you are trained to set up a ladder safely.
  • Orchard ladders have specific set up procedures. If you are unsure, ask your supervisor to demonstrate.
  • Always place a ladder on solid footing. Never put a ladder on an unstable object or on soft ground where one leg can sink in and tip the ladder.
  • Never place a ladder in the bucket of a front-end loader.
  • Ladders on hard surfaces should have slip-resistant feet.
  • Straight ladders should have both side rails in contact with whatever it is leaning against.
  • Don’t lean a straight ladder against insecure objects like boxes or barrels.
  • When setting up a straight ladder, use the 1:4 rule – for every 4 feet of “wall” height, the base of the ladder should extend one foot from the “wall” or surface.
  • If using a ladder in front of a door, lock or block it so it cannot be opened.

Climb up and down the ladder properly:

  • Always face the ladder when climbing up or down.
  • Keep both hands free to climb the ladder. Carry small tools in tool belt; larger tools and supplies can be raised by rope. Picking bags should not be carried by hand.
  • Use the three-point system: always have at least both feet and one hand, or both hands and one foot, in contact with the rungs or steps while climbing up or down.
  • Grasp the rungs or steps, not the side rails.
  • Place the arches of your feet, not the balls of your feet, on the steps or rungs, to prevent sliding off.
  • Wear slip resistant footwear with heels; heels will prevent feet from slipping through the rungs.

Stand on the ladder properly:

  • Don’t stand on the top three rungs of a straight ladder, or top two steps of a step ladder.
  • Never lean over to the side of the ladder. A good rule is to keep your belt buckle inside the side rails. If you cannot reach something, move the ladder.
  • Keep picking bags inside the side rails.
  • If you are working with both hands on straight ladder, lock a leg around a rung to steady yourself. Ask your supervisor if you are unsure about the ladder or its use.

Safety Training for Employers and Supervisors of Adolescent Farmworkers

Funding provided by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, grant no. 5 U50 0H008107-02

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Publication #: U50 OH07544

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More