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Climbing to the Top on Ladder Safety


A worker adjusts a ladder.


Not long ago, a cable installer in Texas was climbing a ladder to work on some overhead lines. To waterproof the cable splices, he and his colleague used a silicone-based product, which left residue on the gloves, and the ladder rungs. As the worker descended the ladder, he slipped on the slick rungs and fell more than 13 feet, hitting the concrete below headfirst – a fatal injury.

About 300 people die each year in the United States in falls from ladders, and many of them are on the job when it happens. As the director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s area office in Fort Worth, Texas, I’ve witnessed the aftermath of countless workplace deaths like this one, and each leaves a painful memory.

In addition to the telecommunications worker above, there was the foreman who plummeted 20 feet when a rung broke on the job-built wooden ladder he was descending. And there was the air conditioning repair worker who tumbled 35 feet to his death while using the wrong-sized ladder.

The only way I can even begin to rationalize deaths like these is to talk about them with the hope that these stories will convince others to take the time and effort to be safe while using ladders. I’ll be doing just that next month during a live-streamed symposium on ladder safety open to all.

Safe Stepladder Use: Follow manufacturer instructions & ladder labels. Face the ladder. Keep slippery materials away. Use a barricade to keep traffic away. Only put ladders on stable, level surfaces. Maintain 3 points of contact. Avoid power lines.

The symposium will address three simple steps that can help prevent falls from ladders:

  • Plan ahead to get the job done safely.
  • Provide the right ladder for the job with proper load capacity.
  • Train workers to use ladders safely.

Along with on-the-ground stories from OSHA, the symposium will feature tips and innovations from employers and the American Ladder Institute. The symposium will be hosted by the University of Texas at Arlington’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center on March 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CT. The event is being held in conjunction with the American Ladder Institute, which designated March as National Ladder Safety Month, and our partner TEXO.

When employers take the time and effort to learn OSHA’s ladder regulations and train workers, deaths from ladder falls can be prevented. If you’re near Arlington, Texas, you can join us live for the March 2 symposium. But you can also participate remotely for information on preventing fatal falls from ladders and ensuring that workers return home safe at the end of every day.

Jack A. Rector is the Fort Worth area office director for OSHA. Follow OSHA on Twitter as @OSHA_DOL.



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The safe stepladder symposium must be extend to all USA states, in order all people understand the risks to use it.

These types of emails I pass on to my apprentices, thank you.

Please also discuss the opportunity to use other methods or work platforms to work at height. The ladders last approach.

I will not be available at this time. Will it be recorded and available at a later date? Thanks.

Recommend using platform and podium ladders vs the regular "A frame" ladder

I have a quick question. My Supervisor has devised an employee test that involves climbing a 150 foot tower at a timed rate. The rate is ambitious and now we have all the employees racing up and down the tower steps. I consider this a work hazard. Any comments?

Ken, please call OSHA's hotline at 1-800-321-6742 if you believe your work conditions are unsafe.

In reply to by Ken Richardson (not verified)

I would point out to your boss that a fall arrest system must be implemented and the required training provided.

The ladder is the last approach for job that need a time to complete such as this task and also full body harness must be required for this job.


Many years ago I proposed a program that would "outlaw" ladders and step ladders. There must be a dozen alternatives: portable scaffolds, safe ladders with fall arrests, cages, small portable man lifts that plug into the wall, etc. My motto: accidents don't happen. They are caused.

We're supporting the #LadderSafetyMonth initiative here in the UK, trying to raise awareness and improve the level of ladder training in order to reduce the death rate for all workers, wherever they are based. and

LADDER SAFETY: Take your time and climb one rung at a time while using the "3 Point Contact" rule.
Don't carry tool or object up the ladder. Don't use aluminum ladders when working around electricity.
Protect yourself and wear PPE always!

After an accident, everyone makes comments of what we should have done. Safety becomes more significant, we become more alert. So my point is why don't we do all of that and prevent an accident before it happens. Keep alert and don't get hurt!!!!

Use alternatives to ladders like mobile scaffolding and lifts. Ladders should only be used when alternatives can't be used and then platform or podium only. The 3 points of contactsis great for going up or down a ladder but when working from a ladder, makes no sense,one hand for all your tasks??

My boss pulls a/c unit's up the latter with a Rope 3 floor's up to the roof while i climb up the latter pushing the A/C up ... Hoping the rope wont slip his hands.. Very unsafe but have to do for apartments..any comments ?

Where can I get a copy of the graphic?

Chuck, we're glad you like it! You should be able to save it directly from the blog. 

you don't have to do it. it's unsafe and you have the right to work in a place of employment that is free from recognized dangers. Employees have right. It's time some employees stand up for their rights and refuse to work due to unsafe acts.

The importance of safety can not be over emphasized. Unsafe acts can cause injury and even death. A safe environment is the key to successful work place which reduces cost and treatment. It is important to educate employers and employees of the need to have culture of safe practices in the work place and at home.

Great information. I clicked on the links for the live-streamed symposium and get the message the "page can't be displayed". Can you provide the full link please?

Apologies, Luci -- that event took place on March 2 so the link no longer works. 

what are thoughts on the lean safe ladders that Werner & Luisville have out?

Greg, please give OSHA's hotline a call at 1-800-321-6742 to talk specifics.