To explain the proper selection, use, and maintenance of portable ladders. The result should be closer inspection of ladders and greater awareness of how to use them safely. Suggested Materials to Have on Hand
Portable wooden, metal, and extension ladders.
(Note: If possible, have ladders that are in poor condition as well as those that are safe so that you can point to specific examples of when to remove a ladder from use.) Introduction/Overview
Ladders are pretty uncomplicated devices. But, unfortunately, they cause more than their share of accidents. That's not the ladders' fault. These accidents happen when people select the wrong ladder for the job, don't inspect it before using it, or get careless about how they use it. The basics of ladder safety are a combination of a little bit of knowledge and a lot of common sense. Today we're going to go over the knowledge aspects of ladder safety so that you can apply your own common sense when you use them. General Hazards
People often fall off ladders, resulting in injuries that can range from bruises to broken bones. Occasionally, the result is death. Falls account for almost 13 percent of workplace deaths and over 16 percent of workplace injuries, and ladders are involved in many of those accidents. There are several potential hazards when you work with a ladder: •
Poor condition. If a ladder is missing parts or has parts that are not intact, it's not going to be able to support a person safely. Frequent inspections are a key part of ladder safety. •
Improper selection. Not every ladder is right for every use. You should be aware of a ladder's weight and height limits. It's also critically important to never use a metal ladder near live electrical wires. Since metal conducts electricity, you could be electrocuted. •
Improper use. Ladders are designed to get you to a higher level. They are not platforms, scaffolds, skids, or braces and should be used only for their purpose. In addition, when you have to climb, use a ladder and not a chair, box, or other substitute. The way you use a ladder can also promote safety or cause accidents. OSHA Regulations and Frequent Violations
OSHA is quite specific about ladder design, inspection, and use, and has separate regulations for portable wooden, portable metal and fixed ladders (29 CFR 1910.25, 1910.26, and 1910.27). These regulations describe everything from how far apart ladder rungs should be (1 foot) to specific "do's and don'ts" when you're working on a ladder. You don't have to be concerned about ladder design, but you should know what to look for to determine if a ladder is safe to use. Ladders are not a major factor in OSHA violations. However, in a recent year, there were 80 violations of the standard that requires inspection of ladders, and their withdrawal from use, if they are unsafe. See the Violations section for for the most recent citations and penalties issued by OSHA under these standards. Identifying Hazards
Always inspect a ladder before you use it and include ladders in any general safety inspection. Whether the ladder is wooden or metal, check that: •
Steps and rungs are all in place, intact, free from grease or oil, have slip resistant surfaces, and are firmly attached. •
Support braces, bolts and screws are all in place and tight. •
Metal parts are lubricated.
Rope is not worn or frayed.
Spreaders or other locking devices are in place.
Splinters or sharp edges are removed.
Safety feet are in place.
Metal ladders are not dented or bent.
If a ladder has anything missing or broken, don't use it. Tag it as defective and remove it from service. Don't try to fix a ladder yourself. Often they can't be fixed and have to be destroyed, but leave that for experts to decide. A ladder that has been exposed to fire or corrosive chemicals is also a candidate for destruction. Don't use it. Make sure that ladders are stored correctly, too.
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