SPOT THE SAFETY VIOLATION: Human Stepladder Is out of Step with Safety


Is this the correct ladder for this job?

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This photograph may bring to mind a joke along the lines of “How many workers does it take to screw in a light bulb?” But from a safety standpoint, there’s not much funny about it. A sideways slip of the ladder, especially in the direction of the stairs, could have fatal results for the worker on the ladder and anyone walking on the stairs. The workers should be using an actual stepladder—not an extension ladder. (Photo re-used with permission from

6 Key Facts about Portable Ladder Requirements

Here are six key facts you need to know about complying with the ladder safety requirements under the OHS laws:

1) Commercially made ladders must generally comply with designated voluntary standards from the CSA or ANSI;

2) Ladders made on site must comply with detailed construction requirements in the OHS regulations;

3) You must ensure that ladders are well maintained and inspected before use for any defects that could endanger workers;

4) Ladders, especially extension ladders, must be properly positioned, generally maintaining a 1:4 ratio;

5) Workers must properly use ladders and not use them for unintended purposes (a lesson the workers in this picture clearly didn’t learn); and

6) In some cases, workers working from ladders must wear fall protection.

When workers set up a step ladder—like the one they should be using in the picture—they should ask the following questions:

1. Flat/stable surface:

Is the step ladder on a flat, stable, and hard surface? Are all four feet touching the ground so that it doesn’t rock between two tripods? Is the surface hard enough to prevent it from creeping and settling once it’s loaded? Step ladders need to be on flat surfaces and shouldn’t be set up on other elevated platforms, such as scaffolding, ladder jacks, etc.

2. Bottom clear:

Is the bottom of the ladder clear of loose materials that can create a trip or slip hazard when stepping on/off the ladder? Is the ladder clear of any doors that can swing open and hit it?

3. Spreaders locked:

Are both spreaders that create the A-frame of the ladder fully engaged and locked?

4. Area marked off:

If the ladder’s being used in a public area, is the work area marked off to warn passing individuals?

5. Clear of electrical:

Is the setup clear of any electrical hazards? What’s the risk of the ladder touching or being touched by electrical supply cables?

6. Clean and dry:

Is the ladder clean of loose debris and dry? Is it free of anything that could increase the risk of slipping on the rungs?

To ensure that the ladders in your workplace are safe to use, download this ladder inspection form that workers can use to inspect ladders before using them. The OHS Insider also has:

It’s also important that you ensure workers are trained in the proper use of all types of ladders present in the workplace. Go to Safety Smart for:

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And at, you can buy posters for your workplace on ladder safety.