Ladder Safety

I read an article earlier in the week that mentioned it was Ladder Safety Month. This got me to thinking about gins and safety training. Most gins tend to focus on a pre-season safety training once the full crew has arrived to begin the new gin season, but what about the year around employees. When you break it down most gins spend 3-4 months each year ginning cotton, and that tends to be the main focus of safety training. What about the other 8-9 months of the year when the tasks being performed are not directly related to the ginning of cotton, how are you training employees to perform these tasks safely? While this article will focus mainly on ladder safety there will be links provided that cover other topics related to off-season safety.

Statistics show there are around 130,000 injuries and 300 or so deaths each year related to ladders. Ladder usage seems like a simple thing and something we all do on a regular basis, but the question is do we do is correctly and safely. The main points that lead to injuries are improper ladder for the task, damaged ladders, and improper technique.

Ladder Selection:

  • Work environment; hazards like electricity, uneven surfaces, or obstructions can affect the choose of ladder to be used.
  • Work length required; never stand on the top cap on a step ladder or use the top 3 rungs on and extension ladder.
  • Duty rating; This is the total amount of weight the ladder will support. This includes the worker and any tools or materials that the ladder will be supporting.

Ladder Inspection:

  • Are all parts of the ladder in good working condition? Look for broken or damaged rungs, rails, feet, and/or braces.
  • Is the ladder clean? Look for grease, oil, or other debris that could make the rungs slippery.
  • Confirm the area the ladder will be placed is level, sturdy, and free from hazards.

Ladder Use:

  • Be aware of what you are doing and the area around you.
  • Maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times. Use a towline, tool belt, or helper to convey tools and materials.
  • Climb slowly and deliberately while always facing the ladder.
  • Keep your body centered between the rails at all times. Never overreach or lean to the sides while working from a ladder.
  • Never attempt to move a ladder while standing on it.

I cannot cover all aspects of ladder safety in this article, but did cover some of the most important. Please take a look at some of the links provided to get additional information concerning ladder safety.

OSHA Fact Sheet for extension ladders:

OSHA Fact sheet for Step ladders:

Although this article focuses on ladder safety, take this opportunity of consider other tasks that are being performed in the off-season and make sure you are training your employees to perform these tasks safely. There are several short training lessons covering a wide range of topics provided in chapter 5 of your Safety Reference Manual. If you would like additional information or have questions please contact me at