Ladders are designed to do more than just get a worker up to the work area or a homeowner to his or her project—they are designed to get the person there safely. It is the responsibility of the user to understand and follow the proper safety guidelines when using this popular tool.
There are many types of ladders and choosing the proper one for the job is the first step in ensuring ladder safety. Stepladders are a commonly used ladder in both the workplace and home due to their self-supported design which allows them to be used in open areas.
Here are some quick tips on how to properly inspect and use your stepladders in order to avoid accidents. For more information on the proper use of stepladders, visit American Ladder Institute’s Ladder Safety Training Library.
Consider Your Environment
The key to ladder safety begins with inspection. After inspecting your ladder for damage or contaminants that could cause a slip or fall, take a look at your worksite. Some things to look out for are electrical hazards, environmental conditions, and the surface at the base of the ladder. Always use a ladder on a level surface. Clear the clutter from the base of the ladder and make sure the surface is free of ice, water, and oil to prevent slipping.
Additionally, never use a ladder in front of a closed door unless it is locked or guarded. It is safer to prop open the door and post signs around the work area to inform others to take precautions. Be aware of environmental and weather conditions that cause wet or slippery surfaces or strong winds that could force you to lose your balance.
Proper Use of Stepladders
To set up a stepladder for safe use, make sure the spreader is locked in a fully open position. Never use a stepladder with the spreader in a closed or partially closed position. Stepladders are meant to be used this way every time, and not in the closed position against a wall.
When climbing a stepladder, always maintain three points of contact (such as one hand and two feet). Do not use your hands to carry tools, equipment, or items while climbing. These should be raised by alternative means (handed up to you or stored in a tool belt). You should always face the ladder when climbing and working, and the three points of contact should be maintained while working by bracing into the ladder or grasping with a hand.
When using a stepladder, do not step on the top step or top cap. Do not sit at the top of the stepladder and straddle it, as this could cause you to lose your balance.
For more information on the safety requirements for the construction, performance, use and care of stepladders, refer to the following standards:
- ANSI A14.1 (Portable Wood Ladders)
- ANSI A14.2 (Portable Metal Ladders)
- ANSI A14.5 (Portable Reinforced Plastic Ladders)
National Ladder Safety Month
In addition to promoting safe ladder use in your home and workplace, get involved in National Ladder Safety Month—the nationwide initiative focused on increasing awareness of safe ladder use and decreasing ladder accidents—this March. Take advantage of free resources to build awareness and share with your friends or coworkers, including: ladder safety training videos, safety posters, infographics, and short videos. Join the online conversation by using #LadderSafetyMonth on your favorite social platforms.
Contributing Author: American Ladder Institute (ALI)
ALI is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved developer of ladder safety Standards. Standards are technical specifications, developed and tested by subject experts, which prescribe rules governing the safety construction, design, testing, care, and use of various types of ladders.