Falls from ladders — step, straight, combination, and extension — account for 20 percent of fatal injuries and lost workday injuries for general industry companies, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Your first step should never be onto a ladder. It should instead be asking yourself these questions:
What height will I need to reach and work from?
Here you will want to account for working two to four steps down from the top of the ladder depending on the type used, as well as your height and the ladder height. Check the label for maximum standing height, whether or not the ladder is made of conductive material and the ladder duty rating listed on the label to determine whether the ladder is stable and strong enough to support the job.
What should I check before using the ladder?
An inspection of the area and ladder should be done prior to use of any ladder. Ladders with loose, broken, or missing rungs, split or bent side rails or other defects, must be discarded immediately. If you simply tag a defected ladder, it may be put back into use at some point and the tag removed.
Additionally, ladders should be free of any oil, paint or other material that makes a complete inspection impossible. If it is not, do not use the ladder. If the correct ladder is not available, rent or borrow the necessary ladders to do the job properly. Do not step on chairs, boxes, bins or other objects. Also, ladders should have skid resistant footing such as cleats or rubber pads.
Visit OSHA to learn more.