Keeping your ladders in a good, clean working condition could save your life
• Keep ladders free of oil, grease, and other slipping hazards;
• Don't load ladders beyond their maximum intended load (not more than their manufacturer's rated capacity);
• Use non-self-supporting ladders at an angle where the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about one-quarter of the working length of the ladder;
• Use wood ladders with spliced side rails at an angle where the horizontal distance is one-eighth the working length of the ladder;
• Use fixed ladders at a pitch no more than 90 degrees from the horizontal, measured from the back section of the ladder;
• Don't use slip-resistant feet as a substitute for the care in placing, lashing, or holding a ladder on slippery surfaces;
• Secure ladders used in areas such as passageways, doorways or driveways, or where they can be moved by workplace activities or traffic. This prevents accidental movement. Or use a barricade to keep traffic or activities away from the ladder; and
• Place the top of a non-self-supporting ladder with two rails supported equally unless it is built with a single support attachment.
Read on for more points for a Toolbox Talk on ladders...
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What else to include in your Toolbox Talk on ladders
• Ladders must have non-conductive side rails if you use them where the worker or the ladder could contact exposed energised electrical equipment;
• Don't use cross-bracing on the rear section of stepladders for climbing unless the ladders are designed and provided with steps for climbing on both front and rear sections;
• Don't paint your wooden ladders. This prevents damage from being seen;
• When you use portable ladders to access an upper landing surface, the side rails must extend to at least 0.9m above the upper landing surface. If you can't do this; you must secure the ladder, and provide a grasping device such as a grab rail to assist workers in mounting and dismounting the ladder. A ladder extension mustn't deflect under a load that would cause the ladder to slip off its supports; and
• Each ladder should be identified by a number and be listed on a register.
What's at stake?
• You could lose your life or suffer serious injury - portable ladders with structural defects – such as broken or missing rungs, cleats, or steps, or broken or split rails, corroded components, or other faulty or defective components – must immediately be marked defective, or tagged with 'OUT OF COMMISSION' or similar wording and withdrawn from service, placed in a storage area until it's repaired.
• You could break your legs or your back. Fixed ladders with structural defects – such as broken or missing rungs, cleats, or steps, or broken or split rails, or corroded components – must be removed from use until repaired by barricading the entrance/exit points, such as with a plywood attachment that spans several rungs as well as red and white tape and signage 'OUT OF COMMISSION'.
• Repaired ladders can kill you. Ladder repairs must bring back the ladder to a safe condition, meeting its original design before the ladder is used again.
What's the danger?
Using ladders might look simple and easy, but they can be very dangerous. Always be aware of the dangers and protect yourself from harm.
How to protect yourself
Here are twelve things your employees should know:
1. Only use ladders for the purpose for which they were designed.
2. The ground ladders stand on must be stable and level or the ladder must be secured to prevent accidental movement.
3. Ladders must not be used on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip-resistant feet to prevent accidental movement.
4. The area around the bottom of the ladders must be kept clear.
5. Ladders must not be moved, shifted, or extended while you are using them.
6. Don't use the top or top step of a stepladder as a step.
7. Ladders must be inspected before and after use for visible defects.
8. Single-rail ladders are dangerous try not to use them.
9. When going up or down a ladder, you must face the ladder.
10.You must use at least on hand to grasp the ladder when climbing.
11.You mustn't carry any object or load that could cause you to lose your balance and fall – use a tool belt of rope and basket.
12.You must wear a harness if you are climbing higher than 1.5m from the ground.
Keep in mind that ladders help us to reach heights. If you look after them, they will look after you.