3 Top Safety Tips When Inspecting Fixed Ladders

inspecting fixed ladders

For most of us, climbing ladders was something we did for fun on playgrounds growing up. Who would have thought it would turn into a necessary skill in some industries?

Because ladders are so familiar to us, they are often overlooked when it comes to your safety. It is common to see people just scurry up and down fixed ladders each day without giving it much thought. Here we will address a couple of key tips for using a fixed ladder safely.

1. Visual Inspection

When I explain this one, it will sound like a no-brainer. However, I have heard story after story of people needing to access a roof or mezzanine via a fixed ladder and regretting it halfway up.

Take a look at your ladder. Do you see anything that may cause an issue with you ascending AND descending it? Remember, what goes up must come down. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Protrusions that may cause scrapes, cuts, or punctures to skin or snatching of clothing.
  • Oily or other slippery substances on the rungs that can cause a slip.
  • Bees/wasp nests that may be disturbed.

That’s right, the last place you want to be is 15’ off the ground on a ladder when you accidentally bump a hive.

2. Height of the Ladder

fixed ladder safety

With the update to OSHA’s code on ladder safety, there is a new rule that is in effect regarding safety on ladders taller than 24’. Any ladder over 24’ tall is required to have a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system.

If the ladder you are about to climb does not have a safety system attached to it, it is important to know how far it extends vertically.

If it does have a fall arrest system in place, ensure that you are fully trained on how to use it and the proper PPE to match. You should NEVER use a fall arrest system without being completely trained on the system and PPE.

Rule of Thumb: It is likely that if you are ascending no more than 1 story, the length of the ladder is less than 24’.

3. Rigidity of the Ladder

fixed ladder safety

We are not suggesting a “pull test” on the ladder before each use. I am suggesting that there are ways to indicate whether a ladder is solid or not.

Primarily it takes part in the visual inspection of the ladder. If you see loose or missing hardware, rungs that are cracked, rust or deterioration of the metal, it is safe to say you have a structural problem.

In the case that you find something on the ladder that is compromising its integrity, it is crucial to tag it immediately as unsafe for use. It is always possible that the person after is not as thorough in their inspection and climbs the ladder regardless. This can be catastrophic, especially if the problem is a known one.

Rigid ladders are the simplest and most cost-effective way for a person to ascend and descend a vertical surface. Since we are familiar with ladders, it is even more important that we remind ourselves daily of the risks of climbing. Keep these precautions in mind to keep you safe at work.

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