By Chad Engle, Loss Prevention and Safety Specialist

This month’s loss leader theme is falls.  Here at NIRMA, we lump all slip, trip and falls together and this group has been one of the top two causes of workers’ compensation claims as long as I can remember.

I recently had some hail damaged siding replaced.  I noticed a broken piece that the contractor had missed.  The extra new siding pieces were stored in the attic above my garage.  I was in a hurry, never a good thing when using a ladder, as I had to run home from work and get out a piece for the contractor to use to replace the additional damage I found.

I set the ladder up correctly using the ¼ rule.  Up the ladder I go, removed siding, and held it with one hand while sliding that hand down the ladder to maintain three points of contact.  In my rush I tried to dismount the ladder on the second to last step.  Lost my balance but did not fall.  Lucky me, this is a great example of a “near miss.”  This was a sudden reminder for me that falls can happen any time, so I am sharing some ladder safety recommendations in this month’s Safety Short.

The following tips were taken from an OSHA Quick Card on Portable Ladder Safety which can be found here: 

Portable Ladder Safety

  • Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
  • Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
  • Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
  • Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
  • Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
  • Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
  • Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
  • Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
  • A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.
  • Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder’s load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.

No one has ever climbed a ladder planning to fall off.  Please take the time to set the ladder up properly, use three points of contact, keep your belt buckle between the sides of the ladder and take your time when dismounting.  I hope this article will help you keep your own safety in mind when using a portable ladder.  I can always be reached at 1.800.642.6671 and