This eTool contains ...
- General information on portable ladder safety
- Cal/OSHA’s Portable Ladder regulations and other related regulations
- Ladder design and construction requirements
- Safe work practices on selection, care, use, inspection and maintenance of portable ladders
- Requirements for employee training on portable ladder safety
- Links to Cal/OSHA and other resources on ladder safety
Portable ladders are one of the most commonly used pieces of equipment in industry. They are handy, simple to use, very versatile, practical and effective. Portable ladders are used by many different people to perform variety of jobs.
Accidents from portable ladders are very common. Falls are the most common cause of worker injury associated with ladder use. Falls are mostly caused by the:
- Use of faulty ladders;
- Improper set-up of a ladder; or
- Incorrect use of ladders.
Consequences of the accidents from portable ladders include disabling injuries and fatalities. The following statistics and real stories demonstrate the severity of accidents from ladders:
- As per the Center to Protect Workers' Rights, each year, about 50 construction workers are killed by falls from ladders. More than half of the deaths occur to people working from ladders. Twice as many falls occur stepping down compared to going up ladders. The main causes of falls from portable ladders are sliding of the ladder base and tipping sideways. A lot of workers carrying ladders hurt their backs, too.
- According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of the fatal falls were from ladders in 2009.
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries in the U.S. relating to ladders every year (http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/ladder.html).
Fatal Fall From Ladder
A 59-year-old painter/independent contractor died of injuries after he fell while working from a metal extension ladder. The victim was working alone on a 90-foot by 20-foot addition to a farm equipment storage building. The building sat on a concrete slab. The victim was working from an aluminum extension ladder putting the finishing touches around the roof beams near the front of the building. The contractor and the ladder fell backwards to the concrete floor where he suffered massive head trauma.
Electrocution From A Ladder
A 32-year-old worker was electrocuted when the metal ladder he was carrying contacted an overhead power line. As the co-workers were beginning to clean up the job site at the end of the work day, the victim picked up a metal ladder to carry it to the work van. While the victim was carrying the ladder upright to the van, the foreman and several co-workers verbally warned him about the overhead power line. Several seconds later, the victim's ladder made contact with the overhead power line and the victim fell to the ground.
Case Reports of falls investigated by OSHA
An employee was climbing a 10 foot ladder to access a landing which was 9 feet above the adjacent floor. The ladder slid down, and the employee fell to the floor, sustaining fatal injuries. Although the ladder had slip-resistant feet, it was not secured, and the railings did not extend 3 feet above the landing.
Ladder accidents are usually caused by:
- Workers not being trained adequately on ladder safety
- Ladder being in poor condition
- Improper selection, care or use including incorrect positioning
- Using unsafe work practices
- Using the wrong ladder for the specific job
- Using defective ladders
However, accidents can be prevented by observing Cal/OSHA Regulations and following best practices. Some of the more common hazards involving ladders, such as instability, electrical shock, and falls, can be predicted and prevented. Prevention requires proper planning, correct ladder selection, good work procedures and adequate ladder maintenance.
Portable ladder safety involves:
The requirements and best practices on each of the elements are given in the respective pages.
Because portable ladders are so commonly used, both at work and at home, many employers assume that their employees are familiar with them and know how to use them properly. That's a bad assumption. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), improper use of portable ladders is a major source of injury both on and off the job. In addition to the injuries and fatalities caused, improper use of portable ladders can also lead to citations for not complying Cal/OSHA Regulations.