March is National Ladder Safety Month

Feb. 28, 2019

To mark Ladder Safety Month, Princeton EHS is highlighting the essential principles of ladder safety.

Falls are one of the top three most disabling workplace injuries, according to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. Most of these falls come from improper use of ladders or substitution of ladders with a less safe alternative, such as a chair (we highlighted this risk in our 2018 holiday card). 

The American Ladder Institute reminds you to “put the right foot forward” and live by these rules of ladder safety:

  • Secure the base of the ladder to prevent accidental movement. 
  • When opening a stepladder, make sure the metal braces are locked down tight.
  • Put both hands firmly on the rungs before stepping onto the ladder
  • Always face the ladder when climbing up or down; don’t skip steps.
  • Maintain three points of contact at all times: two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot. 
  • Keep your center of gravity between the side rails. Don’t lean out on either side. Climb down and move the ladder closer rather than trying to reach. 
  • Do not exceed the maximum standing height as labeled on the ladder.
  • Carry tools in a tool belt and raise or lower heavy objects with a handline. 
  • Do not attempt to use a stepladder as a straight ladder.

Use a 1:4 ratio to set the angle of a straight ladder. In other words, divide the ladder height by 4, then move the ladder base that far from the structure. For example, if the ladder is 12 feet tall, its base should be 3 feet away from the structure.

The NIOSH Ladder Safety app includes an angle measuring tool, mechanical checklist and other useful tools to improve extension and step ladder safety. 

Ever seen The Three Stooges or Wile E. Coyote do something crazy on a ladder? What’s funny in the movies is deadly serious in real life. Never horse around on or near a ladder. Take ladders down and lay flat when leaving a work site unattended to discourage unauthorized use. 

Transporting Ladders

Transport ladders inside a vehicle or tied down flat in a truck bed. Extension ladders that are too long for interior transport should be safety tied to a roof rack, with minimal overhang. Cushion support points to minimize the effects of vibration, chafing and road shock.

Lower the upper section of an extension ladder before attempting to carry it to another position. Slow down and pay extra attention when approaching blind corners. 

Ladder Safety Resources

A detailed guide to the proper selection, use and care of ladders is available on the Princeton EHS ladder safety page

Additional information:
IHSA Toolbox Talk »
Popular Mechanics Ladder Tips »
Choosing the Right Ladder »
OSHA Portable Ladder Safety »