Portable ladders are a common item in nearly every rental inventory. The list of practical uses of ladders is long. Unfortunately, so is the list of accidents associated with unsafe and improper use of ladders. Too often, ladders are taken for granted, with devastating results: Each year ladders cause an estimated 300 deaths and 130,000 injuries requiring emergency medical attention.
In most cases, simple prevention techniques, common-sense use and an understanding of basic safety training will result in a safe, hassle-free ladder rental. Portable ladders come in three general classes:
- Type IA – Industrial ladders, rated for 300 lbs., for extra heavy-duty (heavy construction and industrial use.)
- Type I – Industrial ladders, rated for 250 lbs., for heavy-duty (construction and industrial use.
- Type II – Commercial ladders, rated for 225 lbs., for medium-duty, such as offices and light industrial use.
- Type III – Household stepladders, rated for 200 lbs., for light-duty, such as household use.
Typically, ladders are constructed of three types of materials: wood, metal and fiberglass. Fiberglass ladders are the best ladders to use when working on or around electrical equipment.
Safe Use of Ladders
The most important ladder safety rule is to select the appropriate ladder for the job and to use it according to manufacturer’s specifications. The working area around the ladder should:
Provide level and stable support – do not place ladders on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height. RENT a different ladder!
Be protected from pedestrian and vehicular traffic. If the ladder is to be placed at a doorway, the door is to be blocked open or locked closed.
Ladders should be ascended and descended carefully by:
- Facing the ladder
- Using both hands, do not carry tools or supplies. Use a tool belt/vest to carry tools or supplies, or use a rope to hoist tools or supplies to the working position.
- Grasping the rungs or rails hand over hand.
- Placing feet well forward on each rung.
When using a step ladder:
- Set all four feet on a firm, level surface
- Lock spreaders before climbing
- Do not stand above the second-to-the-top tread. The top cap is not a step
- Keep your body centered between both side rails
When using a straight ladder, be sure to follow these general guidelines:
- Place the foot of the ladder on a stable, level surface. If the surface is not stable or level, secure the ladder to prevent displacement
- Place the foot of the ladder so the distance between it and the wall equals 1/4 the working area length of the ladder
- Straight ladders used to get onto a roof or elevated surface should extend at least three feet above the roofline or surface
- When working from a straight ladder, secure it at the top and bottom
- Place the head of the ladder on a firm, even surface to support both side rails
- Do not stand above the third-to-the-top tread
- Your body is to remain centered between both side rails
Ladder Storage, Inspection and Maintenance
- Ladders should be stored to prevent mechanical, gravitational, water, chemical or heat damage.
- Periodically test stored ladders for:
- Broken, split, cracked or decayed rungs and side rails
- Worn, dirty or missing rungs
- Broken, worn, loose or defective fittings
- Broken, worn or decayed spreaders and ropes
- Broken, worn, defective or missing safety feet
- Tag deficient ladders and remove them from service and repaired, or destroyed
- Always repair ladders according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Do not make improvised ladder repairs