A portable ladder is any ladder that can readily be moved or carried and which consists of side rails joined at intervals by step, rungs, cleats, or rear braces. Each year in the U.S., accidents involving ladders cause an estimated 300 deaths and 130,000 injuries requiring emergency medical attention. Ladder accidents usually are caused by improper selection, care or use, not by manufacturing defects. Some of the more common hazards involving ladders, such as instability, electrical shock, and falls, can be predicted and prevented. Prevention requires proper planning, correct ladder selection, good work procedures, and adequate ladder maintenance.

Normally, workers using portable ladders do not require fall protection. However, when portable ladders are used to perform work from, as compared to serving as a means of access to a higher or lower level, fall protection should be provided.

This “Client Handout” provides small business owners a means of identifying potential problem areas with the use of portable ladders. Any question answered “No” should be thoroughly investigated and corrective actions taken.

Questions Yes No N/A
Are procedures and policies written that cover ladder selection, maintenance, and use?
Are ladders inspected for damage?
Are all ladders maintained in good condition, joints between steps and side rails tight, all hardware and fittings securely attached and moveable parts operating freely?
Are non-slip safety feet provided on each ladder?
Are ladder rungs and steps free of grease and oil?
Is it prohibited to place a ladder in front of doors opening toward the ladder, except when the door is blocked open, locked or guarded?
Is it prohibited to place ladders on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases?
Are employees instructed to face the ladder when ascending and descending?
Are employees instructed not to overreach when on ladders?
Are employees instructed not to use the top step of ordinary stepladders as a step?
When portable rung ladders are used to gain access to elevated platforms, roofs, etc., does the ladder always extend at least 3 ft (0.9 m) above the elevated surface?
Are employees instructed to place the base of rung and cleat type ladders in a position that prevents slipping, or otherwise secure the base in place?
Are portable metal ladders legibly marked with signs reading “Caution-Do Not Use Around Electrical Equipment” or equivalent wording?
Are employees prohibited from using ladders for other than their intended purpose?
Are employees instructed to only adjust extension ladders while standing at a base and not while standing on the ladder or a position above the ladder?
Are the rungs of ladders uniformly spaced at 12 in (30.5 cm), center to center?


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