"Working for a home improvement company means getting those outdoor contracts as soon as possible after winter comes to an end and spring is in the air. We had just started offering roof gutter spring clean ups. I arrived at the job with my trusty ladder and related equipment. I thought it was a clear patch of ground that I had used to position my ladder. I made it up the ladder about two thirds of the way then before I knew it I was face first on the ground. Fortunately for me in one way the ground was soft, so other than my pride I wasn’t injured. Unfortunately, in another way though being as the ground was soft, my ladder had sunk into it from my weight on the ladder and this caused the mishap. This is a lesson well learned about making sure you know the safety aspects of using this type of equipment, and not just make assumptions that it is safely positioned."

When ladders are a requirement in the workplace both the employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure they are being used safely and properly. Not doing so can lead to some very serious injuries and even death as a result of a fall.

The Employer’s Responsibilities

  • Make sure the ladder is the right piece of equipment for the job
  • As the employer, each job must be assessed for work at heights or work that cannot be reached safely from ground level
  • Determine the length of time the employee will be required to remain on the ladder to perform their duties. If this exceeds 30 minutes, then look for a safer and alternative piece of equipment
  • It must be assessed whether the job is going to allow for the safe use of a ladder, by determining if the ladder can be placed so that it is level and will remain stable. Ideally, there should be a way in which the ladder can be secured
  • It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that workers are properly trained and know how to use the ladder safely

The Employee's Responsibility

If you are being asked to utilize a ladder in your work duties, then you have the responsibility of first feeling confident in knowing you are properly trained to do this, and that you need to follow all of the safety rules pertaining to it.

  • Daily Pre-safety Inspections As soon as you get your ladder out for the first use of the day it should be put through an inspection:
    • Check the stiles to be sure they aren’t bent or damaged
    • Look at the feet of the ladder to ensure they aren’t damaged or are missing
    • Each of the rungs should be inspected to make sure they are firm and none are missing or are beginning to wear out
    • Check each locking mechanism to ensure they are engaging and holding properly
    • If you are using a step ladder, then check that the platform is sturdy and that the treads on it are not worn
    • Don’t just assume that once you have put your ladder in place and it is safe that it is going to remain that way throughout the entire day
    • Someone could have moved it slightly which could render it unsafe without you realizing it
  • Safely Using Your Ladder
    • Know what the weight specs are on the ladder you are using. You may need to carry equipment and materials up and down the ladder and you need to take the weight of these along with your own weight into account
    • Don’t take the risk of extending your reach too far. Your belt buckle should remain within the styles
    • Properly position the use of your ladder. It should be at a 75 degree angle. Use the rule of one unit out for every 4 units up
    • Go up and down the ladder properly. Grip the ladder firmly with both hands and face the ladder
    • Never stand on the rungs when the ladder is being moved or you are extending it
    • Be sure the ladder extends at least three rungs above the area you are working at
    • Make sure the ladder is positioned on non movable objects
    • Try to use a tool belt whenever possible, rather than carry your tools in your hands
    • Use the proper safety methods when working near power lines
    • Be sure to implement all your ladder safety training when using the ladder

By making sure you meet your responsibilities when it comes to ladder safety either as an employer or employee it will mean that you are preventing some potentially serious consequences.