Environmental Safety

Environmental Safety

Ladder & Scaffold Safety

This training is for employees who use both portable and fixed ladders, as well as scaffolding. The complete list of OSHA regulations covering ladders and scaffolding can be read here. If you'd like more information, or to schedule formal classroom training, please contact ES

The chief hazard when using a ladder is falling. A poorly designed, maintained, or improperly used ladder may collapse under the load placed upon it and cause the employee to fall.

A ladder is an appliance consisting of two side rails joined at regular intervals by crosspieces on which a person may step to ascend or descend.

The various types of portable ladders include:

  • Stepladder - A self-supporting portable ladder, non-adjustable in length, having flat steps and hinged back
  • Single Ladder - A non self-supporting portable ladder, nonadjustable in length, consisting of but one section. Its size is designed by overall length of the side rail
  • Extension Ladder - A non self-supporting portable ladder adjustable in length

OSHA's requirements for portable ladders include:

  • Portable stepladders longer than 20 feet shall not be used
  • Stepladders shall be equipped with a metal spreader or locking device of sufficient size and strength to securely hold the front and back sections in open position
  • Single ladders longer than 30 feet shall not be used
  • Extension ladders longer than 60 feet shall not be used
  • Ladders shall be maintained in good condition at all times
  • Ladders shall be inspected frequently and those which have developed defects shall be withdrawn from service for repair or destruction and tagged or marked as "Dangerous, Do Not Use."

Proper use of ladders is essential in preventing accidents. Even a good ladder can be a serious safety hazard when used by workers in a dangerous way.

OSHA standards require the following safety precautions for ladder use:

  • Ladders shall be placed with a secure footing, or they shall be lashed, or held in position
  • Ladders used to gain access to a roof or other area shall extend at least 3 feet above the point of support
  • The foot of a ladder shall, where possible, be used at such a pitch that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is one-quarter of the working length of the ladder (the length along the ladder between the foot and the support).
  • The worker shall always face the ladder when climbing up or down
  • Short ladders shall not be spliced together to make long ladders
  • Ladders shall never be used in the horizontal position as scaffolds or work platforms
  • The top of a regular stepladder shall not be used as a step
  • Use both hands when climbing or descending ladders
  • Metal ladders shall never be used near electrical equipment

A fixed ladder is a ladder permanently attached to a structure, building or equipment.

A point to remember is that fixed ladders, with a length of more than 20 feet to a maximum unbroken length of 30 feet shall be equipped with cages or a ladder safety device.

A "cage" is a guard that is fastened to the side rails of the fixed ladder or to the structure to encircle the climbing space of the ladder for the safety of the person who must climb the ladder.

Cages shall extend a minimum of 42 inches above the top of a landing, unless other acceptable protection is provided.

Cages shall extend down the ladder to a point not less than 7 feet nor more than 8 feet above the base of the ladder.

A ladder safety device is any device, other than a cage or well, designed to eliminate or reduce the possibility of accidental falls and may incorporate such features as life belts, friction brakes, and sliding attachments.

Another feature of fixed ladders is the landing platform which provides a means of interrupting a free fall and serves as a resting place during long climbs.

When fixed ladders are used to ascend to heights exceeding 20 feet (except on chimneys), landing platforms shall be provided for each 30 feet of height or fraction thereof, when cages are used, except that, where no cage, well, or ladder safety device is provided, landing platforms shall be provided for each 20 feet of height or fraction thereof.

Ladder safety devices may be used on tower, water tank, and chimney ladders over 20 feet in unbroken length in lieu of cage protection. No landing platform is required in these cases.

The preferred pitch of fixed ladders shall be considered to come in the range of 75 degrees and 90 degrees with the horizontal. Fixed ladders shall be considered to be substandard if they are installed within the pitch range of 60 and 75 degrees with the horizontal. Substandard fixed ladders are permitted only where it is found necessary to meet conditions of installation. This substandard pitch range shall be considered as a critical range to be avoided, if possible.

Ladders having a pitch in excess of 90 degrees with the horizontal are prohibited.

As with all ladders, fixed ladders shall be maintained in a safe condition and inspected regularly.

This section discusses the safety requirements for the construction, operation, maintenance, and use of scaffolds used in the maintenance of buildings and structures.

There are a number of different types of scaffolds available. No attempt will be made here to deal with every unit individually.

It is important, however, to note some of the general requirements which apply to all scaffolds, namely:

  • The footing or anchorage for scaffolds shall be sound, rigid and capable of carrying the maximum intended load without settling or displacement. Unstable objects, such as barrels, boxes, loose brick, or concrete blocks shall not be used to support scaffolds or planks
  • Scaffolds and their components shall be capable of supporting at least four times the maximum intended load
  • Scaffolds shall be maintained in a safe condition and shall not be altered or moved horizontally while they are in use or occupied
  • Damaged or weakened scaffolds shall be immediately repaired and shall not be used until repairs have been completed
  • A safe means must be provided to gain access to the working platform level through the use of a ladder, ramp, etc.
  • Overhead protection must be provided for personnel on a scaffold exposed to overhead hazards
  • Guardrails, midrails, and toeboards must be installed on all open sides and ends of platforms more than 10 feet above the ground or floor. Wire mesh must be installed between the toeboard and the guardrail along the entire opening, where persons are required to work or pass under the scaffold
  • Employees shall not work on scaffolds during storms or high winds or when covered with ice or snow
  • As noted earlier, there are a number of scaffold types, and 1910.28 should be reviewed carefully for special requirements that apply to each type

This portion of the OSHA Standard contains requirements for the design, construction, and use of mobile work platforms (including ladder stands but not including aerial ladders) and rolling (mobile) scaffolds (towers). As in the previous section, there is a wide variety of materials and design possibilities involved. The following is only very general information.

General requirements include:

  • All exposed surfaces of mobile ladder stands and scaffolds shall be free from sharp edges, burrs, or other safety hazards
  • The maximum work height shall not exceed four times the minimum base dimension unless outriggers, guys or braces are added to provide stability
  • This standard requires guardrails and toeboards for work levels 10 feet or more above the ground or floor
  • OSHA standard 1910.29 should be reviewed carefully for specific requirements