Steps to Safety: Ladder Regulations, Types and Uses

ladder safety

Ladders are key tools in the construction and other industrial fields, allowing people to access elevated areas in various workplaces such as offices, warehouses, and manufacturing plants. This functionality, however, also exposes the user to the risk of slipping and falling, while also posing safety hazards to people nearby. As such, it is important that ladders are designed, manufactured and maintained in a way that these are able to support the equipment’s designated load.

In an effort to reduce said hazards, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) implements standards for industrial ladder specifications and safety regulations. These guidelines (CAN3-Z11-M81, among others) provide specific ladder measurement requirements, and help employers train employees in the proper use of these tools. For instance, establishments are required to use CSA Grade 1 Ladders, which come with Heavy Load and Construction and Industrial ratings.

There are various regulations concerning ladder specifications. One of them deals with the required maximum length for ladders. Measured along the side rail, a ladder should not be more than 6m (for step ladders), 15m (for extension ladders made up of two sections), and 20m (for extension ladders made up of more than two sections).

These specifications are given a lot of attention because warehouse ladders function best when used according to their purposes in specific tasks. As such, selecting the best ladder to use will involve considering several factors including:

  • Type of ladder required for the task
  • Length of ladder needed, which should be adequate enough to avoid stepping on upper rungs or unnecessary stretching
  • Ladder material (aluminum, fiberglass, or wood)
  • Weight of both user and materials, to avoid going beyond the maximum load capacity

As mentioned before, different ladders are built for different purposes. Today, various options are available in the market for safety managers and safety personnel to choose from. Among the different kinds of ladders are the following:

  • Step Stool: self-supporting ladder with flat steps, measuring around 800mm – 32in in overall size, and may be fixed or foldable. Step stools should be used by only one person.
  • Straight Ladder: non-self-supporting ladder comprised of one section, which should be used by only one person.
  • Extension Ladder: non-self-supporting ladder comprised of two or more sections, built with guides or brackets allowing length adjustment. Extension ladders are used to reach high areas and should have a stable structure to lean against for support. These should be used by only one person.
  • Stepladder: self-supporting ladder with flat steps, featuring a hinged design that allow for easy storage. Step ladders are intended for use by only one person, in areas with adequate ground support for each of the four rails.
  • Mobile Ladder Stand: movable, self-supporting ladder with a fixed height, comprised of wide flat treads. Some variants include handrails. These ladders should be used by only one person.

It bears repeating that while ladders play a necessary role in the workplace, these pose several hazards that should not be overlooked. Because of this fact, people should also practice ladder safety protocols in order to prevent unwanted accidents and injuries. Some of these are the following:

  • Ladder rungs should have 300mm space on centres
  • Ladder side rails should be set at least 300mm apart
  • Loose rungs and similar defects should not be present
  • Ladders should be placed on firm, stable surfaces
  • Make sure to position ladders at an angle of around 0.3 metres away for every 1 metre length of the ladder

In many instances, ladders are used as a regular means of traversing two or more levels of a structure. They do, after all, serve a similar function as do staircases, while also providing a more lightweight and convenient alternative. Ladders, however, are not as robust as most stairs are. In such cases, the following should be kept in mind to maintain workplace safety:

  • Ladders should have an adequate surface area at the top and bottom of the landing
  • Ladders should extend by at least 900 mm at the top above the landing
  • Ladders should have a clear space of more than 150mm behind each rung
  • Ladders should be secured at the top as well as the bottom
  • Ladders should not be attached together in order to increase length

Using a ladder for work exposes the user to slipping and falling hazards. As such, these should be considered only if other methods of completing the task at hand are not applicable. Fortunately, by selecting the right type and following the relevant regulations, working with ladders can be accomplished safely and effectively.

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