Both employers and workers must play their part to ensure that workplaces are safe for everyone. Ladder safety is an important part of a holistic workplace safety policy. Ontario workplace laws and regulations are routinely updated to ensure that safety standards match current needs and trends in industries.
Improperly maintained ladders, or ladders set up in unsafe locations or positions, are a frequent cause of workplace injuries. In order to prevent these types of injuries, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) has regulations in place to help minimize risk.
Ladder Safety Basics
Section 73 of OHSA Regulation 851 states that portable ladders must:
(a) be free from broken or loose members or other faults;
(b) have non-slip feet;
(c) be placed on a firm footing;
(d) where it exceeds six meters in length and is not securely fastened, or is likely to be endangered by traffic, be held in place by one or more workers while being used; and
(e) when not securely fastened, be inclined so that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is not less than 1/4 and not more than 1/3 of the length of the ladder.
Ladder Safety Tips
Workers and supervisors share a duty to ensure that best practices for safety are in place whenever ladders are being used in a work environment. All workers using ladders should receive training on how to use ladders safely, and be able to demonstrate their learnings adequately.
Not all ladders are created equal. Thought should be taken to use the correct ladder for the job requirements, and workers should understand the difference between a step ladder, an extension ladder, and an articulating ladder.
Prior to use, all ladders should be inspected to ensure that there is no damage or wear that could impact their function. The environment where the ladder is being used should also be inspected to assess any possible hazards. Ladders should never be positioned on a movable object or surface.
A worker should never attempt to move a ladder while using it, for example by shifting or “walking” it, even a few centimeters. If the ladder needs to be moved, this cannot be done while work is being performed on the ladder.
During use, workers should use the following precautions for ladder safety:
- Wear clean, slip-resistant footwear, removing any mud, water, snow, or grease from footwear prior to using the ladder.
- Maintain 3-point contact with the ladder at all times. Never reach or lean beyond the side rails.
- Face the ladder when climbing up or down.
- Place feet firmly on each rung, avoiding rushing, jumping, or sliding either up or down.
- Keep hands free. Tools or materials should be placed securely in a belt, or hoisted to within easy reach.
Workers should never stand, or sit on the top of a step ladder or on the pail shelf. Ladders should be used by one person at a time, and other workers on the ground should keep clear of the area immediately under and around the ladder to avoid accidental contact or movement. Thus it is ideal to place barriers or cones around the ladder, and avoid using ladders in high-traffic areas or in doorways. Likewise, avoid using ladders in inclement weather.
A work area should be inspected by the Workplace Health and Safety Committee or the Health and Safety Representative.
If you use ladders at work, it’s imperative that all of your workers and supervisors are trained in how to use them safely. Fluent motion provides safety training for a variety of industries and environments. We are your OSHA experts, and we are here to help. Contact us today.