Despite laws surrounding ladder hazards and control measures, falls from ladders continue to be a leading cause of serious injury and fatality in Ontario workplaces.  

Unsafe ladder use is among the factors that contribute to fall risk. 

According to data analysis carried out by the ministry of labour, a lack of appropriate worksite instruction and training coupled with the incorrect use of fall protection equipment is the leading cause of injurious accidents and deaths on a worksite. 

Given this data, the safe use of ladders and all issues related to ladder safety should be taken seriously.  

Here’s everything you need to know about ladder safety, having a ladder safety policy, and the requirements for a thorough ladder inspection.

 

Ladder Safety Checklist

LADDER STORAGE AND MAINTENANCE

Are you storing your ladder properly?

  • Ladders need to be kept free of rust, dirt and other foreign materials to be used safely.  
  • Your ladder should be stored indoors and protected from weather. To prevent warping or rot, wooden ladders should be kept in a dry, well-ventilated environment where they will not be exposed to dampness or excessive heat.  
  • Ladders should be stored horizontally, not vertically. They can be stored on racks or mounted on the wall, supported approximately every six feet to prevent damage from sagging.
  • Fibreglass ladders need to be cleaned every three months and sprayed with lacquer.
  • Wooden ladders should be protected with sealant or wood preservative.
  • Extension ladders should be routinely lubricated and checked for damaged joints or locks.

 

EXTENSION LADDER SAFETY

Because extension ladders are used for greater heights, extra ladder hazards & control measures are required. 

If working at a height of 3 metres or more, appropriate fall protection equipment and working at heights training is required. 

  • Ensure ladders are on a level, stable surface and that the upper section of the ladder is in front of the bottom section when facing the worker. 
  • The ladder should be placed at approximately a 75-degree angle from the ground.
  • The ladder should be tied or braced at the top and the base.
  • When necessary, the ladder should be extended at least 3 feet above an elevated work platform

 

FIXED LADDER SAFETY

Because fixed ladders are often exposed to the elements, regular inspections are critical. 

Ice and rain can cause accelerated wear on fixed ladders, as can salt air. 

Before each use, the fixed ladder should be inspected for any defects. A thorough record of inspections should be maintained at all times.

Fixed ladders are permanently secured to structure, which can lend a false sense of security. This in turn can cause a person to neglect other important aspects of ladder safety, such as ensuring footwear is in good condition and clear of mud or ice.

The Ladder Defender guardrails are designed to aid users in transitioning from the edge of the roof to a safe area on the rooftop. It dramatically decreases risk of a worker falling on a permanent fixed ladder.

 

PORTABLE LADDERS

In many cases, accidents involving ladders are due to using the wrong ladder for the job. 

They can also result when using ladders that are damaged or in bad shape.

More often than not, fall-related injuries occur when using a ladder incorrectly because of a lack of training and awareness about the appropriate use of ladders and/or working at heights.

  • There are three grades or types of ladders. Grade 1 is considered heavy duty, grade 2 medium duty, and grade 3 is light duty.  Ensure you are using the type of ladder that is appropriate for both the work environment and the job at hand.
  • Does your ladder meet government standards?  All ladders must be approved by the Canadian Standards Association. 
  • Ladder inspection should be carried out before and after use.  Any visible damage must be reported, and damaged ladders must be disused until they can be repaired. 
  • Avoid climbing a ladder in wet shoes as this increases the risk of slipping. 
  • Never work from the top three rungs of the ladder.  This destabilizes the ladder and can lead to it slipping out of place. 
  • Wooden ladders may not be painted as this could cover up damage.  Clear coatings are permissible.
  • The ladder feet should be placed ¼ of the entire ladder length away from the supporting structure. For example, if the ladder is 4 feet high, the ladder should be leaning approximately 1 foot away from the supporting wall or structure.
  • Never place ladders near power lines, on ice, or against unstable surfaces or structures.
  • Maintain three point contact on the ladder - 2 feet and 1 hand, or 2 hands and 1 foot.

Temporary ladders can be made safer with a guardrail system

Positioning the ladder against a guard rail system like the Bluewater Safety Rail 2000 will add more stability. This will allow the worker to have temporary access to rooftops with less risk of the ladder sliding and falling.

 

STEP LADDER SAFETY

For the safe use of step ladders, follow this basic criteria.

  • Ensure that the ladder is placed on a level, stable surface. 
  • Check for defects, cracks, or the accumulation of dirt or foreign substances before and after use.  Do not use a damaged ladder.
  • Do not pull or move ladders from side to side, as over time this movement can cause ladders to become less stable and more wobbly.
  • Make sure the load rating on the ladder is appropriate to the worker and equipment involved.
  • Choose a step ladder that is about 3 feet shorter than the highest point you will be working, as this ensures a more stable base.

 

Ladder Inspection Requirements

Along with all fall protection equipment, ladders should be inspected regularly to ensure safe use.  

Ladders should be inspected immediately after purchase, before and after each use, and before storing to ensure that defective or damaged ladders are removed from the work site.

When inspecting any type of ladder, look for:

  • Bowing or warping. Check the rails for any twisting or distortion.
  • Corrosion or rust. Check for rot in wooden ladders, and cracks in fibreglass ladders.
  • Any signs of excessive wear
  • Loose nails or screws
  • Loose or missing rungs
  • Lack of appropriate labels
  • On extension ladders, check joints and locks. All parts should be lubricated appropriately.

 

Ladder Safety Policy

Part of ensuring ladder safety on the job site is having a complete ladder safety policy to act as a point of reference for employees and for use during training.  

A ladder safety policy should describe in detail the appropriate and expected procedures and guidelines for employees to follow when using, storing, and inspecting ladders.  The policy should also state clearly the consequences of failing to comply with these procedures, as well as outline the responsibilities of both the employer and the workers, and the definition of each piece of equipment that will or could be used on the job site. 

While some or perhaps all of this information may seem like common sense, the data regarding workplace injury and the incorrect use of ladders and other safety equipment should alert companies to the need for clearly outlined procedures and documentation.   

Safety in the workplace is a collective responsibility.  

Employers are responsible for ensuring the application of proper policy and routine training for all workers; while workers are responsible for complying with appropriate procedures and safety measures at all times.  

By working together and to develop comprehensive plan for ladder hazards and control measures, we can reduce fall-related injuries and deaths in Ontario workplaces.