When to Inspect
How often should you inspect your ladder? The easy answer is every time you use it. Recently OSHA released the “Walking, Working Surfaces Standard for General Industry,” changing this requirement slightly. It now says that ladders should be inspected at the beginning of each shift or when there’s an incident that would require the ladder to be inspected again, like falling over or being dropped off the truck. There is no need to inspect every single ladder you own at the start of every shift, just inspect the ones that will be used. That ladder in the closet that only gets used once a year would only be inspected when used. Either way, ladders should be inspected regularly and frequently to help prevent injuries.
Ladders are built with a 4 to 1 safety ratio, so if your ladder is rated at 250 lbs., it is tested at 1,000 lbs. A ladder in new condition will never be the cause of an accident if used properly. A damaged ladder, however, could easily cause an accident. If your ladder is bent, broken, cracked or split, you have no idea what weight that ladder is able to hold. So, what are the things you should be looking for in a ladder inspection?
Feet – The feet on your ladder are like the tires on your vehicle. They are made of a soft rubber or plastic, so they will grip the ground. Unfortunately, soft materials wear out and become slick. If the tread is worn on your ladder feet, they need to be replaced. If your company uses a lot of ladders, it’s a good idea to have replacement feet on hand.
Side Rails – If the side rails are cracked, bent or split, the ladder needs to be replaced. There is no glue or duct tape that will repair broken fiberglass. A commonly asked question about fiberglass is, “Is the ladder bad if the fiberglass is faded?” Fiberglass breaks down in UV radiation and sunlight. The fiberglass will fade faster if stored on the top of the ladder rack or the sunny side of the building. Fading does not mean the ladder is bad, but excessive fading will cause the surface to split or crack.
Rungs and Steps – If they are bent or broken, they need to be replaced. Also, make sure they are free from any dirt, grease or oil.
Latches, locks, rivets, bolts and ropes – Over time, all the connection points become loose and worn. Make sure these connections are tight, and the ladder doesn’t walk. Latches should move freely, and the springs should be in good condition.
Stickers – The stickers should be legible and in good condition. Warning labels are on the outside of the rail and are often worn off, faded or gone. In the past, replacement labels have been hard to get because ladder companies didn’t know what condition the ladder was in that you wanted to put new labels on. This practice is changing, and companies are now selling replacement label kits on their web-sites.
There are a few great, free resources available to help with a more detailed inspection:
NIOSH Ladder Safety App – This is a free download, and it has won several awards. One of the options on the app is an inspection tutorial. You can choose between an extension ladder or a stepladder, and the app walks you through a detailed inspection.
Company Databases and Tracking – There are several companies that sell products that will provide the same step by step inspection but will also allow you to save the information to database after the inspection is complete.
The American Ladder Institute – Inspection information and free inspection forms are available from the American Ladder Institute at www.americanladderistitute.org
The ALI also sponsors National Ladder Safety Month every March. They provide safety information and events each year during the month.
Remember, a ladder in good condition will never be the cause of an accident when used properly. If your ladder has any damage that wasn’t there when it was made and tested, don’t use it. You have no way of knowing what a damaged ladder will hold until it is too late. Ladders are safety equipment, climb safe.
For more information visit: www.littlegiantladder.com