Safety & HCM Post

Extension Ladders – Best Practices

Every year more than 18,000 workers are injured in falls from ladders. Many die. Would it surprise you to know that most victims fell from heights we would think of as “safe”?

First, always choose the right material, strength and weight rating when using an extension ladder. For example, metal ladders should never be used near an electrical power source, but a wooden ladder may not support you and your tools. In that case, try a fiberglass ladder.

Before using a ladder, perform a safety inspection, using a checklist if necessary. Never use a ladder with broken, missing, or loose parts. Check for oil or grease on the rungs. Ensure that ropes, pulleys, and locks are in good condition and the feet have clean, sturdy non-slip soles.

Check your shoes too. They should have clean non-slip soles, and a definite heel to prevent your foot from slipping through the ladder.

When using a ladder:

  • Carry a ladder balanced on your shoulder. Use two people for longer ladders.
  • Look around. Double check what is overhead.
  • Set the base of the ladder one foot out from the structure for every four feet of height. Don’t over-extend the sections, and use a rope or strap to secure the ladder so that it won’t slip or fall.
  • Have a co-worker act as a lookout, and post warning signs. If you have to work in a doorway, block it and lock it.

When climbing a long ladder:

  • Use a “bear climb” technique, which reduces bouncing. Move your right hand and foot together, and then your left hand and foot.
  • Stop climbing when you are at least three rungs from the top

When working on a ladder:

  • Keep your hands free for climbing; secure tools in a tool belt and hoist larger tools in an approved container after you have reached your work height to avoid the possibility that you could lose your grip or balance.
  • Use proper fall protection if you need both hands for the task.
  • Always climb down and move the ladder if you cannot easily reach your work.
  • Allow only one person at a time on the ladder. There should be no backseat drivers with this job
  • When the job is finished, store the ladder horizontally to prevent unauthorized use.

Don’t fall for shortcuts! Follow these tips for safe use of extension ladders on the job and at home



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