Ladders are used for countless tasks in various fields of work whenever workers are required to work above or below ground level. Every day in Ontario, falls from ladders cause injuries to workers; that is why ladder safety is so important.
Ladders must be CSA certified and be properly suited to the task. They should be constructed of heavy type or grade 1 type material and the load rating must be verified and the limits respected.
Before climbing any ladder, ensure that it has a firm footing and is well secured to prevent slipping; always wear slip-resistant footwear. When climbing a ladder, avoid twisting or turning, face the ladder and use both hands to climb up or down, maintaining 3-point contact at all times. To keep one hand free, carry tools in a tool belt or hoist tools and material up after you reach the top. Don’t over reach. Keep your centre of gravity between the side rails. As a general rule, if your belt buckle aligns with the side rails, you are leaning too far.
Never paint or coat a wooden ladder with an opaque material, never use aluminum ladders or conductive materials where electrical contact is possible, never use a ladder in a horizontal position, and never use the top rung as a step. Always ensure the areas surrounding the base and top of the ladder are clear of obstructions.
If work is conducted at a height of more than 3 metres and there is a hazard of falling, workers must wear a safety harness and tie the lanyard to the structure or to a lifeline before beginning work. Workers must also have the proper training for safely using any such equipment.
When using an extension ladder, always follow the 4 to 1 rule. Ladders are to be inclined such that the base is one rung length out from the wall for every 4 rung lengths that it extends up the wall to the point of contact. Extension ladders should extend at least a metre above the edge of the working surface. Have someone hold the bottom of a tall ladder until it can be tied off to a firm anchor point at the top. If an extension ladder exceeds 6 metres in length and is not securely fastened or is likely to be endangered by traffic, it must be held in place by one or more workers while being used. Never use extension ladders in high winds and never erect them near power lines unless you are a competent electrician and follow prescribed rules.
When using a step ladder, secure the ladder by spreading the legs to their limit and locking the spreaders in place. Never stand on the top of a step ladder or use the pail shelf as a step. Verify the age of the ladder, which should be imprinted on the side of the ladder. Maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times when climbing or descending.
Supervisors should inspect ladders daily to ensure they are in good working condition; workers should also inspect any ladder they intend to use. When inspecting any ladder, look for such things as loose or missing rungs or steps, cracks or splits in any part of the ladder, splinters or decay in wooden ladders, damaged or worn non-slip feet, and loose bolts or screws. Ladders should be free from oil, grease, and other slippery material, movable parts should operate freely, and steps or rungs should be uniformly spaced. When inspecting extension ladders specifically, ensure extension locks are in place and working properly, ensure moving parts operate freely, and ensure chains and ropes, as well as pads or sleeves are in good condition. Other things to look for when inspecting step ladders include loose or damaged hinge spreaders, missing or damaged diagonal braces, and ladder stability. If ladders do not meet the standard requirements for use, they must be removed from service immediately.
Employers, supervisors and workers alike should consult Ontario Regulation 213/91: Construction Projects for specific information about the design, construction, maintenance and safe use of ladders.