January 17, 2023CMMS
Ladder Safety Procedures: How Mobile CMMS Can Prevent Workplace Injuries
Understanding and implementing proper ladder safety training and procedures are more than a luxury. They are critical.
For a worker, ignoring key safety procedures could result in becoming yet another statistic listed in a database. In the worst-case scenario, it could cost someone’s life. For an organization, it could mean facing litigation and lawsuits. It could even destroy a business. And the chances of something like this happening to you—whether you’re the worker or the employer—are staggering.
According to stats reported by the CDC in 2017, out of the approximately 500,000 people who suffer an injury from a ladder fall and are treated for it, about 300 of them end up fatal. Let’s break those numbers down.
Every single day in the United States, ladder falls are the cause of:
- Nearly 14,000 injuries require treatment
- Out of those 14,000 injuries, almost one person per day will die from their injuries
Human cost aside, these accidents are extremely costly to businesses as well.
In the US, annual costs associated with ladder injuries are about $24 billion. These costs include loss of work, medical, legal, and liability costs. Not to mention the costs accrued due to pain and suffering expenses.
Many workers find themselves not only off work due to their fall but without income or restitution for extended periods of time. We need to pay attention to OSHA ladder safety guidelines and implement processes that enforce education and compliance.
It would be far less costly to use a platform like MaintainX that would allow companies to create workflows and checklists to monitor and track compliance and enforcement.
Don’t be a Statistic: Teach/Learn Ladder Safety
So what makes ladders so dangerous?
Here are some of the most common reasons for ladder-related injuries:
- Improperly mounting or dismounting the ladder
- Failure to maintain balance while on a ladder
- Improper setup of a ladder
- Overreaching while atop a ladder
- Missing a step when either ascending or descending a ladder
Interestingly, most of the 300 annual ladder deaths happen from falls less than 10 feet.
And while falls from ladders are—not surprisingly—the leading cause of injuries related to ladders, this is followed by improper use of a ladder, use of defective or faulty ladders, and finally, simple human carelessness.
Yet with all this data, all this awareness, fatalities due to workplace falls—this is in general, not just from ladder falls—continue to rise.
Clearly, teaching and learning ladder safety needs to be taken more seriously.
A demographic that needs attention here are those who work for small construction firms. It’s this group that has the most deaths due to falls—ladders or otherwise.
Workers of small construction firms, including residential construction, accounted for more than 60 percent of fatalities due to falls. These contractors don’t have sophisticated training and safety programs, and their workers are paying with their health and lives. But are sophisticated and expensive programs really necessary?
Something as simple as mobile software would be sufficient. Once your staff is trained, providing customized procedures and checklists that ensure they are following guidelines would be a breeze with MaintainX—which is sophisticated, simple, inexpensive, and easy to learn and use.
There are efforts in place to raise awareness when it comes to ladder safety. In 2017, The American Ladder Institute became the sponsor of the annual National Ladder Safety Month. It happens every March, and its goal is to educate and reinforce safety training for both workers and homeowners. For anyone who will ever get up on a ladder.
But first, organizations large and small need to train their teams on ladder safety, no matter what type of ladder they are using.
- Most ladder fatalities happen due to falls from less than 10 feet
- Falls also occur from the improper use of a ladder or using a defective ladder
- Ladder fatalities are on the rise
- The largest percentage of fatal falls happen to workers of small construction firms
- Expensive, sophisticated training programs aren’t necessary. Simple mobile apps like MaintainX would ensure workers are following the procedures employers have trained them on
- Employers must provide ladder safety checklists and training
Types of Ladders
The American Ladder Institute, mentioned above, points out there are 12 different types of ladders, but of course, not all types would be used in construction or the trades. Not only are there different types, but there are also different Duty Ratings. The Duty Rating on a ladder stipulates the maximum load or weight it can safely hold.
Bear in mind this isn’t just the weight of the person climbing the ladder.
Total load or capacity is made up of the following:
- Weight of the person climbing
- The weight of their clothes and any protective gear
- The weight of all supplies and tools in hand
- The weight of any supplies or tools stored on the ladder
The Duty Ratings are as follows:
- Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty) 375 pounds
- Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty) 300 pounds
- Type I (Heavy Duty) 250 pounds
- Type II (Medium Duty) 225 pounds
- Type III (Light Duty) 200 pounds
So the very first step to training should be that all workers are aware of these ratings and make sure they never exceed the numbers above. Every ladder should have a label with a rating on it. No one should ever get on a ladder assuming it will hold them and their tools.
The following is a list of some but not all of the ladders commonly used in the trades:
- Articulated Ladders. These are portable ladders with one or several sets of hinges that allow the ladder to be set up in a variety of configurations.
- Combination Ladders. Another portable ladder is basically a 3-in-1. It can be used as a single or extension ladder and also as a step ladder.
- Extension Ladders. As the name suggests, these ladders extend. They are not self-supporting.
- Trestle Ladders. These ladders are also known as Double Front Ladders. These ladders are self-supporting but non-adjustable in length. With a hinge at the top, they have two sections that enable two people to climb them at the same time, one on either side.
- Platform Ladders. Another self-supporting but non-adjustable ladder, these have a platform at the top.
OSHA Ladder Safety Procedures
As we mention above, expensive and sophisticated ladder safety training isn’t really necessary. And for a lot of small companies, it might be cost-prohibitive.
The answer to that is simple. OSHA ladder safety guidelines can all be found online. Pair those guidelines with mobile software that can enforce compliance and training with your team, and you will be on your way to a safer workplace. For the most part, many OSHA ladder safety guidelines and procedures seem like common sense but that doesn’t mean people take them seriously and understand the risks of ignoring them.
Here is a list of what a worker—or homeowner—should never do:
- Leave raised ladders unattended. If a ladder is not in use, it should be either put away or laid out on the ground
- Situate a ladder in front of an unlocked door, or a door that isn’t blocked or guarded
- Place ladders on uneven surfaces
- Use a ladder for something other than climbing up and down. They are not to be used as a ramp or platform—unless you have a platform ladder
- Tie or fasten multiple ladders together in any way
- Use a ladder on a windy day
- Use a ladder when you aren’t fully awake, alert, and physically capable
- Skip one or more rungs when ascending or descending
- Bounce while standing on the rungs
- Sit on the rungs, including the top of the ladder
- Use a ladder that has had exposure to anything that could damage or corrode it, such as fire or chemicals
- Fail to pay attention to duty ratings
- Step past the fourth from the top rung on a leaning ladder or the second from the top of a step ladder
- Use the top step
- Make any sudden moves or over-reach
- Climb while carrying tools or equipment. Both hands should be on the ladder (note the image above)
Here’s a ladder training checklist of what to look for before mounting a ladder:
- Make sure all parts of the ladder are free of slipping hazards. Grease, oil, wet paint, etc.
- Ensure the feet have slip-proof pads and they are in good condition
- Check that spreader braces and rung locks are working properly
- Ensure all moving parts are operating freely
- Make sure all locks and rivets are secure
- Before placing the ladder, check that the ground is level and firm
- The ladders rungs and steps need to be parallel and level before use. Rungs are supposed to be within 10 and 14 inches of each other
- Anchor the ladder. This can be done by securing the base or driving a stake into the ground
- Check for any damage to the ladder
- Ensure there are no power lines nearby. If setting up near electrical equipment, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder
- Check the distance between a non-supporting ladder and the structure it will rest on. The ladder should be angled so that the horizontal distance from the foot of the ladder to the top support is a 4:1 angle of the working length of the ladder.
- Make sure the ladder has slip-resistant feet
- Ensure the ladder is going to be the right length for the job. It should extend a minimum of 3 feet past the working surface or roofline
- Check the locking devices
Checklist of what you should always keep in mind while on a ladder:
- Always face the ladder
- You should be wearing proper, closed footwear
- It’s always a good idea to anchor the top of the ladder with a bungee cord or something else. This is an especially good idea for anyone who works on a roof and must step back onto the ladder in preparation for descent
- If on a roof or other structure, always be conscious of the placement of the ladder
- If working at heights or involved in complicated tasks while atop a ladder, always use a fall-arrest system
- Wear required protective equipment for the job at hand, such as eyewear and or a hardhat
- Your body should always be centered between the rails. You should never lean or reach too far to the side
- At all times during ascent and descent, you should have 3 points of contact on the ladder, as this will minimize the chances of a fall. The climber should be facing the ladder and both hands and one foot should always be in contact with the cleats and side rails. If one hand or foot slips, there are still two in contact with the ladder to help break a fall
Ladder Safety Training
As you can see from the above list of dos and don’ts, a lot of the procedures are just common sense. Unfortunately, when we’re busy or we’re in a hurry, we neglect to do the very things we know we should do.
This is why it’s imperative that safety training initiatives are implemented. But they also need to be enforced. Ultimately, enforcement is going to be up to employers. Make sure your workers have been taught necessary safety guidelines, and consider using a tool like MaintainX to enforce compliance and education – particularly before your team undertakes a task. Sometimes, a timely reminder can save a life.