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Using a ladder safety toolbox talk to reinforce best practices for ladder safety in the workplace are critical to prevent injuries.

Ladder-related incidents led to more than 150 worker fatalities and more than 20,000 nonfatal injuries in 2015, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It's also likley that ladder injuries are under reported.

In this toolbox talk we are going to cover some of the basic things you should cover in a ladder safety toolbox talk.

Choosing the Right Ladder For the Job

Ladder choice is an essential you should cover in your safety talk. What you don’t want is workers climbing any old object to accomplish a task at height. Not only does that violate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules, but it puts all crew members at risk, especially when working at height.

If a ladder is necessary, here’s what workers should consider before making a final selection:

1. Ladder Material

Ladders are typically made from wood, fiberglass, or aluminum. If you’re on a construction site, you’re better off with a ladder made from aluminum or fiberglass. One of the advantages of aluminum ladders is that they’re lighter and easier to maneuver around. That makes a big difference when you’re walking back and forth between people around a worksite. However, if you’re working in a place with electrical sources, you’d be better off with a fiberglass ladder since they don’t conduct electricity.

2. Ladder Height

Next, you want to make sure that the ladder is tall enough for the task at hand. It’s better to have a ladder that’s the correct height versus trying to make do with whatever ladder you can locate. If you’re going to use an extension ladder, pick one that goes at least seven feet higher than the maximum contact point. That way, your workers can set the ladder up at the correct angle.  If you’re using a stepladder, the reach height should be four feet above the height of the stepladder in use.

3. Ladder Duty Rating

Make sure that a ladder can hold any necessary weight by checking its duty rating. Any ladder used on a worksite should have a sticker highlighting its duty rating attached to the side. In addition, workers should account for factors like body weight, clothing, protective equipment, and any tools they will have with them while using the ladder. 

Setting Up a Ladder

Before setting foot on the ladder, check it over for any structural defects like:

  • Broken or missing rungs
  • Cracked side rails
  • Corrosion of components
  • Other defective components

If you notice any issues that could impact the safety of workers, remove the ladder from the worksite and have it sent for repair or disposal. You don’t want anyone using a ladder that could lead to a serious injury or even death.

Workers should set ladders up in places where there isn’t a lot of traffic. However, if it’s a busy site, they should set up barricades that prevent anyone from accidentally jostling them while using a ladder.

Crew members must position ladders at an angle most conducive to providing them with stability as they finish the task at hand. The rule for extension ladders is to set the base 1 foot away from a structure for every four feet of ladder height. That way, workers can achieve a 75-degree working angle.

Make sure your crew members understand the importance of setting up ladders on a level, stable surface. If that’s hard to do, they should use a leveling device instead of stacking objects beneath the ladder legs. 

Working on a Ladder

Another point to note in a ladder safety toolbox talk is how to handle working on a ladder. Crew members should maintain three points of contact while working on top of a ladder. They can achieve using body parts like the hands, knees, and feet. In addition, crew members should face the ladder whenever they climb up and down.

Workers should never stand any higher on a stepladder than two steps down from the top. For an extension ladder, they should never go higher than four rungs from the top. In addition, crew members should avoid using ladders if the current weather conditions include rain, strong winds, or the possibility of lightning.

Position step stools as close as possible to the object the worker needs to reach. A worker can tell whether a step stool is suitable for the job by how much they have to strain to reach an object. If the crew member is constantly on their toes, they should switch to a ladder.

F‌inaly, Never lean or reach away from the ladder while using it.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to ladder safety, even for the most experienced construction professionals.

Make ladder safety part of one of your regular toolbox talks and help protect your workers.

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