OSHA Targets Latinos, Millennials with Ladder-Safety Outreach

By Roy Maurer Mar 12, 2014

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction, and every year, falls from ladders account for nearly a third of deaths, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

As part of its Fall Prevention Campaign, OSHA has published an illustrated, bilingual (English and Spanish) ebook on ladder safety aimed at Latinos and Millennials, whom the agency considers at high risk for fall injuries.

OSHA is hoping that putting the information in an electronic format will allow workers to easily read it on their smartphones while at the job site.

Although ladders are commonly used, they may not always be the best option. OSHA urges workers to consider:

  • Will I have to hold heavy items while on the ladder?
  • Is the elevated area high enough that it would require a long ladder that could be unstable?
  • Will I be working from this height for a long time?
  • Do I have to stand on the ladder sideways to do this work?

“If your answer is yes to one of the above questions, consider using something other than a ladder,” the agency advised. It suggests bringing in other equipment, like a scissor lift, or, at the very least, using a platform step ladder with a working platform and hand-rail barricades on the sides.

Other safety measures to take when using ladders include:

  • Using a ladder high enough to reach the work area without having to stand on the top rung.
  • Securing the ladder’s base.
  • Wearing proper footwear—for example, nonslip flat shoes.
  • Placing the ladder on stable, level ground.
  • Ensuring that the ladder is fully extended before starting work.
  • Preventing passers-by from walking under or near ladders by using barriers such as cones or having a co-worker act as a lookout.
  • Maintaining three points of contact with the ladder at all times (one foot and two hands, two feet and one hand).
  • Not carrying any tools or materials by hand when climbing a ladder.
  • Not leaning away from the ladder to carry out a task. Workers should always keep their weight centered.
  • Not using a ladder near a doorway. If this is necessary, though, make sure the door is locked.

Ladder Maintenance, Storage

Before using a ladder, check it carefully to ensure that there are no visible defects and that it is in good working condition. OSHA advises checking, maintaining and storing ladders according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not use ladders that are bent or missing a step or locking device for the spreader bars.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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