Is a ladder the right tool for the job?

Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries to B.C. construction workers – and falls from ladders are the cause behind most construction-related falls. 

“The humble ladder: everybody just looks at it and thinks that’s the tool to grab.”

Construction industry specialist Kathy Tull told me this when I asked her about people’s attitudes toward ladders. She and her team at WorkSafeBC are working with the construction sector to focus on ladder safety to help prevent injuries caused by falls from ladders.

Poster with drawing of stepladder

Photo credit: © WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation
Board of B.C.), used with permission

Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries to construction workers in B.C. – and falls from ladders reflect the highest proportion of construction-related falls. To give you some idea of the numbers, between 2012 and 2014 falls from ladders injured or killed 1,005 workers in the construction sector.

Kathy and her team want people to ask themselves: “Is this the right tool for the job? What are the hazards? Is there a safer alternative like a platform ladder or other work platform? If I’m going to use it, how will I use it safely?”

WorkSafeBC’s High-risk strategy 2016: Falls from ladders includes distributing practical resources for reducing serious injuries related to ladder-use at construction worksites throughout B.C.

Poster with drawings showing safe use of orchard ladders

Photo credit: Poster from AgSafe

For more ladder safety information and resources for different industries, see Ladders on WorkSafeBC’s website. You can also check ladder requirements in Part 13 of the OHS Regulation.

Lately I’ve seen that ladder safety is on the radar in other industries too. For example, in agriculture, @AgSafeBC reminded people on Twitter: “Safe #orchard #ladder use is crucial – check out our resources for key tips #LadderSafety #AgSafety.”

@Actsafe, the safety association for B.C.’s film and TV industry, recently tweeted a link to The Ladder Challenge Game from WorkSafeBC.

The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC links to this three-part video on using ladders in manufacturing. The video covers proper techniques for setting up a stepladder, using a ladder safely, and moving and positioning a ladder.

The BC Forest Safety Council includes important information on ladder safety in one of its monthly Safety Alerts: “Safety On and Off the Job.”

Fall prevention workshop for construction Saturday Oct. 15 in Kelowna

A Fall prevention workshop for construction is happening on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 8 to 4 at Okanagan College in Kelowna. It’s for tradespeople, supervisors, contractors, Construction Safety Officers (CSO), and others who work in the construction industry.

“They can fill out a written fall protection plan,” Kathy says. “They’ll get the actual hands-on experience by looking at photos and working with safety officers to fill it in properly.”

The hands-on workshop also includes:

  • How to fit and inspect fall protection equipment
  • Options for fall protection, including horizontal lifelines, guardrails, anchors, and more
  • Selecting and setting up ladders and scaffolding

Bridging the Gap 2016

More construction safety is on the agenda at Bridging the Gap 2016, hosted by the BC Construction Safety Alliance on Oct. 26 and 27 in Vancouver. (I’m working on a post about this, so stay tuned.)

Do you have any ladder safety resources to share? It’s a big job to remind people that ladders aren’t as innocent as they may look.

Share this safety message:

2 thoughts on “Is a ladder the right tool for the job?

  1. Derek

    A great, and free tool, is the ladder safety app from NIOSH. Includes a measuring tool to measure the angle your ladder is set up at.
    A new feature on some ladders is an audible click when stepping on the last step of a step ladder. The last step/ rung is the one often missed and the cause of falls and ankle twists. No click, not on the bottom yet.
    Also good to look at the ladder as a system, included in the system is a clear, safe area to get on and off the ladder.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *