Portable Ladders and Fall Protection
How many times have you seen a meme or online video where someone uses a ladder in a manner so dangerous that you can hardly believe your eyes? Usually, the ladder in question is balanced so precariously that it’s only a matter of time before the ladder and its operator go tumbling down.
Falls like these regularly result in injury within the roofing industry. In fact, falls from portable ladders are so dangerous that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict OSHA ladder regulations in place to mitigate this hazard. Below, we discuss OSHA’s rules on ladder safety and how you can incorporate them into an OSHA fall protection plan that will keep your workers safe at any height.
Portable Ladder Safety
- Ladders must extend 3 feet above the point of support
- Always maintain 3 points of contact when climbing
- Only use ladders on a stable surface
- Do not exceed a ladder’s maximum load rating (don’t forget the weight of your tools)
- Avoid electrical hazards, such as overhead power lines
We know how this sounds — common sense tips that any roofing contractor would know about, but you’d be surprised how often these standards are ignored. The dangers are real, as are OSHA’s warnings. “Falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.” The above requirements are reflected in OSHA’s standards for ladders. Roofing contractors who fail to take ladder safety seriously risk not only an injury on their watch but also an inspection and subsequent citation from OSHA.
Taking Fall Protection Into Account
Astute readers may be wondering how ladder safety works with fall protection. As we’ve covered previously, roofers are required to wear a fall arrest system when working at a height of six feet or more. Do roofers have to wear a fall arrest system when working on a ladder? The short answer: no. Your workers are not required to tie off when they are on a ladder, but it could one day mean the difference between a scare and a fall. For this reason, many roofing contractors elect to require their workers to use fall protection when on portable ladders. If you do the same, you must follow OSHA’s regulations regarding anchor points.
Related: All About Anchor Points
Never have a worker tie off to a ladder. Were they to fall, the ladder would fall with them. This is just one of the many common mistakes that can be avoided with a comprehensive OSHA fall protection plan.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.