Ladder Safety: Factors to consider when choosing a Ladder

By HSE East Africa | Monday Jun 8, 2020

Falls are a leading cause of accidents in the workplace with about 65% of all construction site injuries in Nairobi being as a result of workers falling from heights. Ladders are involved in a high percentage of these incidents. 

Fall and ladder-related accidents are preventable by following basic guidelines. In this article we look at several factors to consider when selecting a ladder to carry out a job.

  • Use a Ladder

The first rule of using the right ladder is to use a ladder. Too often, people will grab the closest thing to them and end up standing on buckets or chairs instead of taking a few minutes to go get the right ladder. 

  • Select the Proper Ladder Style

There are many different types of ladders so the first step is choosing the right style for the job. Various ladders types are designed to keep you safe and productive when climbing or standing. Using the wrong kind or simply ignoring the limitations of climbing equipment can result in a fall or serious injury. 

  • Select the Proper Height

To ensure you choose the ladder best suited to your needs, it is recommended that you refer to the ladder height safety chart for that specific ladder. Sample charts can be found here. 

For step ladders, the height of the ladder, along with maximum reach, is considered along with the highest standing level. For instance, if you want a ladder that needs to reach a maximum height of 10 feet, and you are an average person with a height of around 5.9 feet, you may require a ladder height of 6 feet.

Extension ladders should be 7 to 10 feet longer than the highest support or contact point, which may be the wall or roof line. This will allow enough length for proper setup, overlap of ladder sections, height restrictions of the highest standing level, and where appropriate, the extension of the ladder above the roof line. The highest standing level is four rungs down from the top.

  • Select Performance (Duty Rating)

Ladders are designed to safely hold up a specific amount of weight. Most ladders come in five different Duty Ratings identified by their grade and type. The Duty Rating is defined as the maximum safe load capacity of the ladder. A person fully clothed weight plus the weight of any tools and materials that are carried onto the ladder must be less than the duty rating.

Ladders are also built to handle the demands of various applications. For example, a ladder used frequently on a construction site by rugged workers should typically be stronger and have a corresponding higher Duty Rating than a ladder used by a lighter person for light chores around the home. Workers should be advised to consider both the weight which will be on the ladder and the work application and to select the proper grade of ladder which is designed to handle anticipated usage.

Different jurisdictions have different ratings for Ladders. The table below shows the four ladder types and their duty ratings according to the British and European Ladder Certification Standards. 

 

  • Select the Right Materials

The final step in selecting the right ladder is the choice of the proper material. Each material has characteristics which make it best for certain applications or one material may simply fit the personal preferences of the user. For example, potential contact with electrical wires, or a hostile environment such as exposure to certain chemicals or outdoor storage, should have a major impact on the material selection.


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