Every workplace has at least one portable ladder. They're an indispensable tool we use daily but not always safely: studies have found that over 95% of all workplace incidents involving portable ladders result from unsafe acts.* "These incidents, and the injuries that may accompany them, are all preventable," says WSPS Consultant Clinton Brown.
One of the contributing factors in ladder incidents may be a tendency to focus on the task — the reason we're using the ladder - rather than on the means we use to complete the task safely. Clinton offers this example: "To achieve the desired height, you have to do so in a safe manner. This is where things like choosing the right ladder for the task, setting it up properly and securing it are important. if you don't set up the ladder safely or use the wrong ladder for the task, you're going to fall."
4 common causes of ladder incidents
Many ladder-related injuries can be traced back to these four causes:
- choosing the wrong ladder for the task (e.g. a ladder that is too short or has insufficient weight-bearing capacity)
- using a damaged ladder (e.g. loose steps or rungs, cracks, worn non-slip feet, rotting wood)
- using the ladder unsafely (e.g. overextending your reach, not maintaining suitable contact with the ladder)
- setting up a ladder with insufficient support or on unstable ground
Ladder injuries, typically from falls, may be minor (swelling, bruising), moderate (sprains or fractures), or severe (broken bones, concussions, or worse). "A ladder fall from three metres onto concrete could be fatal," warns Clinton.
A comprehensive new ladder safety guideline published by WSPS - available as a free download - offers essential information for any workplace that requires employees to use ladders. Among other considerations, the guideline provides direction on
- ladder selection and use, such as
- ladder types - extension/straight, fixed access, stepladder, and tripod orchard (for orchard use only)
- strengths and limitations of four ladder materials - aluminum, fibreglass, wood, steel
- evaluating ground conditions
- inspecting and positioning the ladder
- ladder hazards and controls
- general safety practices
- ladder inspection checklist
- components of an employee training program.
How WSPS can help
Any ladder injury, even a minor one, could cost your business. Use these resources to reduce the risk of ladder injuries in your workplace.
Our consultants can customize health and safety solutions to meet your workplace needs. Connect with a consultant to learn more.
- Ladder Safety (comprehensive guideline)
- Job Aid - Working at Heights
- Job Aid - Mobile Ladder Platforms
- Mobile Ladder Stands or Mobile Ladder Platforms (guide)
- Safety Check: Step Ladder Safety (safety tips)
- Ladder safety case studies: retail and warehouse
- New working at heights training requirements may affect you. Follow these 6 steps (article)
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.
* "Ladder Accident Statistics," Safety in Numbers; www.safetyinnumbers.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Ladder-Accident-statistics-2018.pdf.