Ladder safety continues to be one key element in keeping your facility running smoothly and without incident. Government safety regulations clearly dictate the basic rules you must follow when it comes to placing and using ladders, and you’ll want to follow these regulations at a bare minimum. In addition, as with any possible access to restricted areas, ladders can represent security concerns if left unattended and unguarded. Today, we will look at a few ways to secure the ladders in your workplace, in order to keep your workers and equipment safe.
1. Fall protection systems
All ladders must be outfitted with some form of fall protection according to OSHA requirements. The only exception to these rules are: temporary, portable ladders and ladders used solely by emergency personnel such as police or firefighters in the course of an emergency. All other ladders must have fall protection systems in place. The type of system will depend on the kind of ladder, the use to which it’s being put, and the height involved.
2. Fixed ladders
As a permanent installation in your facility, fixed ladders present unique concerns when it comes to ladder safety and building security. Guests, employees, and unwelcome visitors alike could use these ladders when they really shouldn’t, risking health and property damage. For this reason, you will first want to restrict access to fixed ladders to personnel with a valid reason for their use. Access ladders and hatches should be shielded from accidental or intentional misuse with a ladder guard for fixed ladders or other access control devices.
In addition to controlled access, fall protection systems for fixed ladders must meet OSHA guidelines as given in 29 CFR 1910.28. All fixed ladders installed after November 2018 must have a “personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system,” and all older ladders must be updated by 2036. Fixed ladders with roof or interior floor access via a hatch must include safety systems to prevent workers from falling through the hatch while using the ladder.
3. Portable ladders
Although not subject to the same rules as fixed ladders, portable ladders can be areas of special concern, especially if ladders are used and moved frequently. If you know portable ladders will be used frequently, then make sure that there is a clear, level surface nearby with sufficient space to angle the ladder when in use. 29 CFR 1910.23(c) mandates that the bottom of the ladder be either securely fixed in place or marked off with some barrier such as cones or caution tape at all times in order to make sure that no one accidentally runs into the ladder while moving through the area. When not in use, portable ladders should be carefully stowed away. While in use, workers should carefully observe all weight limits and safety instructions.
4. Mobile ladders
Special safety regulations in 29 CFR 1910.23(e) set the guidelines for mobile ladder safety. Mobile ladders have wheels that can be rolled around and secured in place. While similar to portable ladders in that you can move them to wherever they may be needed, these ladders present special concerns due to the ease with which they can move if not properly secured and due to weight limit concerns. The wheels beneath a mobile ladder must be secured while in use to prevent rolling. Because weight on the ladder gets distributed to the platform below, you should pay special note to the weight rating for the platform and special note to the maintenance of the materials making up the platform as a whole. Because these ladders appear similar to a ramp or flat surface in some respects, you should take special care to secure this equipment when not in use to prevent accidental access by someone who might – for example – mistake this ladder for a staircase.
5. Regular safety training
No amount of high-grade equipment or well-tailored safety rules will matter if your employees don’t how to use the equipment properly and how to follow the rules. Another key element of ladder safety includes making sure that all workers and relevant guests get at least a bare minimum of instruction. Where possible and/or necessary, instruction should include the reasons why certain rules are in place. For example, if you have mobile ladders in your facility, make sure that workers know that however stable they may appear, sudden weight shifts could cause ladders to move or roll if not properly secured in place. Make sure that wandering guests know that certain areas are off-limits or only for emergency use. In some cases, you may need a refresher course and/or penalize unsafe activity. In this way, you can make the most of your time and equipment.
6. Restricted access
Ladders can present clear dangers to those who use them. They also present a security risk in terms of unauthorized usage. Restrict access using gates, locked doors, and a ladder guard for fixed ladders. These guards prevent just anyone from easily climbing onto a ladder by sealing off the lower rungs. By gating off restricted, potentially unsafe areas and installing a heavy-duty ladder guard for fixed ladders in your facility, you can help keep the workplace safe for workers and guests alike.
7. Equipment maintenance
Last but not least, 29 CFR 1910.23(b)(9-10) and common sense require that all ladders be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are ready for use. Whether you are pulling an old portable ladder out of storage for the day or you have a reliable fixed ladder that you use daily, metal and other materials wear over time. While not in use, rungs may rust and while in use they may loosen or wear away in spots. As a key part of keeping your facility safe, you should have a plan to inspect any equipment which hasn’t been used in a while, especially potentially life-saving devices like fall protection systems.
In almost every industrial facility, ladders present a necessary part of work life, granting access and allowing transport of people and materials. When used safely, ladders allow you to streamline operations while maximizing safety. With some careful planning and patience, you can help ensure ladder safety in your facility now and for years to come.