Stepping Up Safely: The Dos and Don’ts of Ladder Usage  

By Mike Costigan

As I visit jobsites here in local 11, I notice more and more scissors lifts and fewer step ladders. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still see plenty of step ladders, but they are just not as prevalent. Scissor lifts are more cost-efficient in terms of production than step ladders. It allows the person to cover more area without having to climb down and reposition the ladder. It also allows the person to carry tools and materials on the lift. When you compare the cost of a scissor lift rental to the increase in job production, it’s an easy decision. 

But I view this choice through the lens of safety. Of course, not all tasks can be performed with a lift, requiring us to use a ladder. Nationally there are more than 160,000 injuries each year when using ladders, including multiple deaths. A high percentage of these injuries and deaths are caused by the 

misuse of ladders and a disregard for ladder safety.  

When using a step ladder, remember these rules:  

1. Select the proper ladder for the task. A ladder cannot only be too short for the task. It can also be too tall, impeding access to the work.  

2. Inspect your ladder before use. Look for missing shoe grips on the bottom, cracks in the rails and damaged steps and spreader bars.  

3. Set up your ladder properly. Make sure all four feet are in solid contact with a level surface with spreader bars open all the way. Do not set up a ladder near a leading edge or open floor tile.  

4. Use your ladder the way it was intended. Maintain three points of contact when ascending and descending, with no tools or materials in your hand and belt buckle between the rails. Never stand on the top step or ladder cap.  

5. Care for your ladder. Store the ladder in an area away from any possible damage from other trades working in the area. If possible, lock up your ladder so no unauthorized people use your ladder without your knowledge. Borrowed tools are never treated as well as owned tools. 

And never “walk” your ladder. You are inviting trouble and possible injury if you do.  

As always, please stay safe out there and take care of each other. If it can’t be done safely, it can’t be done correctly. 

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