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Training workers on using ladders is a must


Seth Patterson discovered a common thread across more than 350 NIOSH ladder fatality reports: insufficient training. “Most of these incidents might have been avoided if the companies provided effective ladder training,” said Patterson, an environmental, health, and safety engineer with Lockheed Martin. According to Mike Kassman, director of OSHA and Disaster Response Training at CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, one possible reason for the lack of staff training is that ladders are relatively simple to handle compared to other more complex equipment such as aerial lifts. Despite advancements in ladder-related safety equipment, such as outriggers for maintaining side-to-side stability, training is still essential. According to a 2018 CPWR hazard notice, more than 70 workers are murdered and 4,000+ suffer lost-time injuries each year in the construction sector as a result of a fall from a ladder.

According to Patterson’s findings, almost half of the victims (about 180) were holding a ladder for another person. Ninety of the fatalities were caused by falls, while 40 were caused by electrocutions, which can occur when using the wrong ladder for the job. Not undertaking thorough inspections and failing to withdraw from service ladders that aren’t in good functioning condition are two other causes of injuries. In 2005, ladders were named to OSHA’s annual “Top 10” list of most-cited violations, and they have remained there ever since. According to CPWR specialists, companies can assist avoid ladder-related injuries by providing monitoring and evaluating whether a ladder is the proper equipment for the work. This is a frequent practise among commercial construction firms. Because they have the capacity and expense, these firms frequently use lifts or scaffolds instead of ladders. Ladders, on the other hand, are unlikely to disappear anytime soon in industries like home construction, owing to their low cost and portability, according to experts.


Employers must give ladder safety training to workers via a “competent person” in accordance with OSHA regulation 1926.1060, which covers topics such as fall dangers and weight capacity. Although the agency’s general industry regulations do not mention ladder training, 1910.30(a)(3)(i) states that each employer must educate employees about fall dangers in “the work environment.” Cal/OSHA, or the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, goes even farther, requiring that “supervisors of employees who often utilise ladders be taught in ladder safety.” Mobile ladders, single and extension ladders, articulated ladders, and stepladders are all covered in four ladder safety training videos on the American Ladder Institute’s website. A website dedicated to basic ladder safety is also available from the organisation.

Maintaining three points of touch while climbing is one of the major topics discussed. Spencer Schwegler, a retired union painter and former director (retired) of OSHA and disaster response training at CPWR, pointed out that while OSHA doesn’t “state out” a requirement for three points of contact, it’s implied in 1926.1053(b) (20-22). What do you mean by three points of contact? It might be two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand, according to OSHA and ALI. A point of contact isn’t deemed a knee or elbow, according to Schwegler. “I fooled myself early in my career into believing my knee was a point of contact so I could take more equipment and paint up the ladder,” Schwegler told Safety+Health.

Employees on a ladder should not carry any object or load that could cause them to lose their balance or fall, according to OSHA rule 1926.1053(b)(22). Rather, they should plan ahead of time how they will get their equipment and other items to their work area. “Towlines, a tool belt, or an assistance to deliver goods so that the climber’s hands are free when climbing,” according to ALI. “Do not carry tools and materials while climbing,” the CPWR warns. “Haul or hoist materials to the upper level with a rope.” The organization’s specialists advise against using a ladder horizontally or as a plank, standing on the top two steps of a stepladder, and ensuring that the ladder height is appropriate for the job. According to ALI, personnel should work with the middle of their belt buckle or stomach between the ladder side rails. Avoid leaning or reaching out too much, as this could cause the ladder to tip over.


Employers and employees can use ALI’s website to find the best ladder for the job. One thing to look for is the ladder’s duty rating, which is the utmost weight it can support. The personnel, their clothing and personal protection equipment, as well as any tools or supplies, all contribute to the total weight. Type III (low duty) ladders can hold up to 200 pounds, while Type IAA (extra heavy duty) ladders can hold up to 375 pounds. In 2013, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a phone app for ladder safety, which was upgraded in 2016. The application demonstrates how to choose the best ladder for the user’s needs and tasks. Avoiding electrical risks is part of this.

The software also includes a ladder inspection tool and a method for ensuring that a ladder is level or placed at the right angle while resting against a structure such as a wall, known as the “4-to-1 rule.” The ladder is moved 1 foot away from the vertical structure on which it is sitting for every 4 feet above the surface level. Although it isn’t mandated by OSHA, conducting a risk assessment to choose which sort of ladder or other equipment to use could help ensure that they are used safely. The Health and Safety Executive, the UK’s equivalent of OSHA, mandates such an evaluation. “They’re aware that ladders are a higher-risk device,” Patterson explained.

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