Often the most familiar objects, tasks and routines are the ones that can pose the greatest risks to workers. Once we become familiar and comfortable, it’s easy to let our guards down and devote less energy towards awareness of surroundings and potential hazards.
Portable ladders are a prime example of a seemingly simply, familiar device that can have devastating effects if not used properly and safely. Hazards from ladders can include falling, being struck (by materials falling from a ladder or a falling ladder itself), tripping, lifting, striking or being struck, and electrical contact. All of these have the potential to result in serious injury or even death.
Did you know? Lack of training and failure to tag defective ladders both fell on the most frequently cited violations of 1926 Subpart X: Stairways and Ladders.
Employers are required by OSHA (1926.1060) to provide ladder training to employees who use the equipment. Training should include policies and procedures for use as well as teaching employees to recognize the hazards of ladder use. OSHA provides a Portable Ladder Safety Quick Card for a straightforward summary of safe ladder practices, helpful to all employees in remembering their ladder training.
Any ladder that exhibits a structural defect needs to be marked clearly so that it is easily identified as defective. Tagging the ladder with the message “Do Not Use”, or something similar, meets the requirement as well. For fixed ladders, the requirement for marking can also be met by blocking the rungs and preventing climbing. If it is a portable ladder, in addition to tagging, it should be immediately removed from service.
For more information on OSHA standards and ladder safety, visit OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov
Ladder standards can be found in the general industry OSHA standards (1910), and construction industry standards (1926), as well as in shipyard employment (1915), marine terminal (1917), longshoring (1918).
(The Obligatory Disclaimer: I am not a representative of OSHA, a lawyer, or any other form of government or legal authority. The information and interpretation provided is that of my personal opinion. It is intended for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice, legal opinion, or absolute and complete for your specific facts or circumstances.)