Climbing to the Top on Ladder Safety



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.

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.




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.

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

Add new comment




Don't miss a post!

Sign up to be notified when we publish a new post:

Connect with us

Connect with the Secretary

Connect en español