Ladder Safety Measures

Nothing makes the heart skip a beat like missing the rung of a ladder. Just one foot misplaced can spell disaster, which can easily be avoided with the right strategy. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fall incidents in construction make up almost half of all fall-related fatalities in the workplace. While this number has steadily dropped over the years, any life lost is one too many.

So, with falls being a fear for contractors, initiatives like National Ladder Safety Month are vital. 

Here at Safety Services Company, we are committed to observing initiatives like these to save lives and build a strong safety culture.

In this blog, let’s break down the major causes of ladder-related injuries, the safety essentials for contractors, and how to ensure safety and compliance for your workers at all times!

The Shocking Truth About Ladder Mishaps

As careful as we may try to be, the reality is over 22,000 people are reported injured yearly due to ladder-related accidents; of these, over 100 people sustained fatal injuries. 

Construction sites make up the vast majority of accidents and, unfortunately, fatalities. In 2020 alone, construction sites accounted for over 5,000 of these reports.

Why is this the case, and what should contractors look for?

Identifying the Biggest Ladder Hazards

Due to the nature of construction work, ladders are a big part of getting the job done. This is where mishandling and unsafe practices become exponentially more dangerous. 

Several factors are involved in these incidents. The biggest culprits include: 

  • Improper Placement: Problems arise when ladders are not placed on level ground. Ladders on uneven ground are prone to shift due to the lack of balance on their load bearing. 
  • Overreaching and Overloading: Overreaching or over-extending on the last rung is responsible for most slips and falls.
  • Lack of Fall Protection: If a slip or fall does occur, in some cases, the proper protection, like harnesses or lanyards, can help save lives. 
  • Losing Rung Count: Nothing trips a worker like missing the bottom wrong during descent. Failure to keep count of the rungs can result in a slip and fall. 
  • Using the Wrong Ladder: Using the wrong size can result in overreaching. Issues may also arise when calculating the proper weight needed to sustain the integrity of the ladder. 

Accidents from these factors can have a devastating and life-threatening impact on workers and their families. To add, you face potential legal repercussions and a loss of productivity.

Ladder Safety Essentials for Contractors

Now, let’s dive into how we can prevent these potential mishaps.

1. Choosing the Right Ladder

Every contractor knows you need the right tool for the job. Ladders are no exception. There are 6 types of ladders everyone in the industry should know about: 

  1. Step Ladders
  2. Straight Ladders 
  3. Platform Ladders 
  4. Extension Ladders 
  5. Trestle Ladders 
  6. Multi-Way Ladders

Each serves a different purpose. For example, Trestles are self-supporting, portable, and have the size and load-bearing capacity to fit two people. It’s crucial to have ladders like these placed on level ground.

Meanwhile, to work on projects requiring more height, you might need an extendable ladder, some including a rope or pulley system to extend to the necessary height. Using this ladder can help stop bad habits like overreaching.

2. Pre-Climb Inspection

Every ladder used should be pre-climb inspected, no matter how new. Contractors should be like detectives, meticulously checking for structural integrity, the condition of the metal or wood, and faults in fall or slip-protection systems. 

Check for any cracks, loose bolts, or damaged components. Also, note that each different kind of ladder will require different needs. 

For example, the fly sections (locking mechanism and locking pins) of extension ladders should be thoroughly checked, while trestle ladders should be inspected for any bends or loose welds in the platforms. To streamline the process and ensure all aspects are accounted for, have a checklist handy and your workers ready to sign off on it.

3. Set Yourself Up for Success

Now that you have the right ladder for the job and it’s fully inspected and compliant with regulations, it’s time for a proper setup! 

First, ensure the ladder is on stable, level ground. Use the 4.1 Rule for placement: the ladder’s base should be placed one foot away from the building or structure for every four feet of height to where it will rest against it.

Next, secure and fasten any necessary ropes, pulleys, or levers. Belts and pouches should be used to keep workers’ hands free.

Lastly, require all workers to comply with the 3-point contact rule. Workers should always maintain at least 3 points of contact with the ladder. This ensures workers climb at a slower pace.

4. Staying Alert and Avoiding the “Zone of Danger”

The “zone of danger” refers to the area around the ladder’s base where a fall can cause injury:

  • Maintain focus: Avoid distractions and stay alert while on the ladder. Your full attention is crucial for safety.
  • Clear communication: Let others know you’re using the ladder and ensure they stay clear of the “zone of danger.”
  • Beware of weather: Avoid using ladders in bad weather conditions like strong winds or rain.


Conclusion: Create a Firm Foundation for Ladder Safety

During this National Ladder Safety Month, take the extra steps to protect your workers. Always use the right ladder for the job and rigorously inspect it before use.

Additional Safety Tips and Resources 

Need more tips and resources? Contact us so our experts can guide you through any needs or concerns you have!

From the blog

We've put together a collection of useful tips, articles and guides based on our dealing with safety and compliance on a daily basis. From the latest OSHA changes to seasonal quick tips, we've got you covered. See all blog articles