You might have used a ladder for most of your working life, but do you really know how to choose the right ladder for the job? When you select a ladder, you need to consider four criteria:
1. Type – Some ladders are fixed, others portable. Fixed position ladders are usually attached to buildings; portable ladders can be moved. Portable ladders can be either self-supporting ladders, like an “A” frame, or an extension ladder.
2. Duty Rating – Check the duty rating sticker to be sure the ladder can support the weight of you and your tools. Construction jobs require either a Type 1, which can support up to 250 pounds; Type 1A, which can support up to 300 pounds; or Type 1AA, which can support up to 375 pounds.
3. Length – To calculate the maximum working height on a portable ladder, look at the duty rating sticker to find the highest standing level and add your shoulder height.
4. Material – Be sure your ladder is made of material appropriate for the work environment. Use a fiberglass ladder if you might come into contact with electricity. If you use a wooden ladder, be sure it’s treated to prevent deterioration, but not painted. If painted the wood cannot be easily inspected for cracks, damage and/or deterioration.
OSHA recommends the following guidelines for inspecting a ladder to ensure it is in a usable condition:
- Check for cracks, bends, splits, or corrosion.
- Check all rungs and step connections.
- Make sure the ladder’s feet work properly and have slip-resistant pads.
- Make sure rung locks and spreader braces are working.
- Be sure all bolts and rivets are secure.
- Make sure steps, rungs, and other ladder parts are free of oil, grease or other slippery materials.
- With extension ladders, make sure the pulleys work and the rope is not frayed or tangled.
If you discover that a ladder is damaged, remove it from the work site for repair or disposal. OSHA has also developed regulations regarding the proper way to climb a ladder:
- Face the ladder whether climbing up or down – Never turn your body out or away from the ladder.
- Use 3-point contact – You should have two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet in contact with the ladder at all times.
- One person at a time – Wait for the person climbing the ladder to get off before you start to climb. This same rule applies when coming down the ladder.
- Be aware when getting on and off – Make sure you have the proper foothold at the top of the ladder by placing your foot on the step closest to the upper landing.
- Never on the top rungs – With straight or extension ladders, you should only climb to the fourth rung from the top. With an A-frame or stepladder, only climb to the second step from the top. Never climb on the cross bracing; and never sit on any step.
- Stay centered – Keep your body centered within the ladder’s side rails.
- Carry small loads only – Carry only small objects in a tool kit on your belt. Use hoists or chain falls to lift materials.
- Avoid exerting force – To remain stable while on the ladder, don’t pull, lean, stretch, or make sudden moves. These could cause you to lose your balance.