Unsafe ladder practices can lead to serious injuries. Falls are the primary hazard. To avoid falls, field crews should inspect all ladders for damage prior to use. They should look for broken or missing rungs or steps, broken or split side rails, defective or missing safety feet, corrosion, and splinters or sharp points. Also, the rungs should be free of grease and oil, moving parts should operate freely, wheels or pulleys should be lubricated, and extension ladders should have ropes that are in good condition. Here are some guidelines for proper use.

  • Never stand on the four top rungs of a straight or extension ladder or on the top two steps of a stepladder.
  • Hoist tools and other material up after reaching the top of the ladder. Use of tool belts helps to manage tools while working from a ladder.
  • Never overreach when working from a ladder. Keep your body within the ladder's side rails.
  • Never tie ladders together to make them longer unless they are specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Do not shift, reposition, or extend a ladder while using it.
  • Unprotected ladders set up in doorway openings or high traffic zones can be knocked over.
  • Never use metal ladders near electrical lines, equipment, or switch gears.
  • These guidelines are excerpted from the Tailgate/Toolbox Safety Meetings created by Safety Services in Corona, Calif., a company that provides customized safety training and support for small construction firms. Contact them at 866.204.4786 or www.safetyservicescompany.com.