Do you know everything you need to know about the 10 most frequently cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards? In this series, we’re exploring the most common OSHA violations, one by one. Keep reading to learn about OSHA’s ladder safety requirements.
OSHA Ladder Safety: What It Is
“Working on and around stairways and ladders is hazardous. Stairways and ladders are major sources of injuries and fatalities among construction workers for example, and many of the injuries are serious enough to require time off the job. OSHA rules apply to all stairways and ladders used in construction, alteration, repair, painting, decorating and demolition of worksites covered by OSHA’s construction safety and health standards.” (Source)
Ladders are dangerous. OSHA has specific rules about using ladders and working near ladders, as well as how ladders should be designed.
In general, there are three categories of ladders used in the workplace:
2. portable ladders, including self-supporting (foldout) ladders and non-self-supporting (leaning) ladders
3. fixed ladders
OSHA has general rules that apply to all ladders, as well as specific regulations for each kind of ladder. Rules cover issues such as the following:
- how much weight a ladder can bear
- the angle and position of a ladder
- the spacing and design of ladder rungs, cleats, or steps
- how to use two or more ladders together to achieve additional height
- ladder care and maintenance
Why OSHA Ladder Safety Violations Happen
Most ladder-related injuries and deaths are falls. Perhaps a worker slips on a wet rung of a fixed ladder erroneously stands on the top rung of a step ladder and loses their balance, or comes crashing down with a poorly-supported portable ladder. Each of these is an example of a preventable incident—and an OSHA violation.
In fact, many OSHA violations related to ladders come down to simple misuse and mis-measurement. Oftentimes, it’s unintentional. Other times, it’s willful—a worker or supervisor choosing to ignore basic safety precautions because they’re in a rush or believe the rules are unnecessary.
One of the most common issues is side rail height. Keep in mind that when a portable ladder is used to access an area out of reach, the side rails must extend at least three feet above the upper landing surface. Too often, a worker or supervisor will overlook this rule because the ladder seems tall enough to provide access—regardless of whether the side rails reach three feet.
Another common violation is using the top of a stepladder as a step. No worker should ever sit, stand, or climb on the top platform of a stepladder.
Violations also happen when workers use ladders for unintended purposes, such as scaffolding, bracing, or as a work platform.
Finally, many violations involve the use of ladders with structural defects. A cracked, bent, rusty, or broken ladder is too hazardous to use. Workers should also never use a ladder built without proper support or grips, nor any ladder that is wet, oily, or greasy.
What You Stand to Lose When Ladder Safety Violations Happen
Direct costs: OSHA penalties can exceed $15,000 per violation—and as much per day for every day the issue hasn’t been fixed by OSHA’s deadline. The fine for a willful or repeated violation can be 10 times as much.
- workers’ compensation claims from workers who have fallen and sustained injuries
- lost productivity due to injuries caused by falls
- expensed related to replacing equipment damaged or broken due to falls, falling objects, or improper ladder use
- legal and compliance fees
- decreased morale
- negative publicity and reputational damage
Signs You’re at Risk of a Ladder Safety Violation
How to Avoid a Ladder Violation: Your Prevention Checklist
You Don’t Have to Manage Your OSHA Requirements Alone
Have questions? Looking for more detailed OSHA compliance guidance?
KPA is here to help.
To truly protect your workforce and bottom line, you’ll need in-depth information—and not just about OSHA’s top 10, but every potential hazard that exists in your organization. You’ll also need to conduct a thorough evaluation of your facilities to identify current gaps and risk areas.
KPA’s unique combination of software, training, and consulting services can provide the coverage your people and your organization need. For more information and guidance about preventing a fall protection violation, please contact us.