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Working At Elevation: Securing Extension Ladders to Structures

- July 29, 2016 by Mike Pettit (View all posts by Mike)

Falls from elevations are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries, especially in the construction industry. One reason for these injuries is because workers do not properly secure their ladder, causing the ladder to move, shift, and even slide out from under the worker. In my previous post on ladder training techniques, I explained how proper ladder setup is crucial to ladder safety. For this blog, I will share recommendations on how to properly secure an extension ladder.

When accessing a platform, such as a roof:
Secure and tie off the ladder at the top, middle, and bottom – this will solidify the anchoring.

  • Use at least two lines (heavy-duty ropes, chains, straps, and cables) from the ladder to an anchor point, each at a 45-degree angle away from each side of the ladder toward the structure.
  • Remember if you are climbing onto the structure, the ladder must extend three feet beyond the access area.

To access the side of a structure, such as during painting or window cleaning:

  • Attach stabilizer arms with slip-resistant pads to the ladder.
  • Secure the base of the ladder to the ground. My favorite method includes:
    • Drive two, long “L-shaped” pieces of rebar into the ground
    • Following the same angle as the ladder, angle the rebar 45-degrees away from the sides of the ladder and toward the structure
    • Your final product should resemble a triangle, with the structure being the hypotenuse of the triangle

As you share these recommendations with your staff, I encourage you to act out these methods.  If possible, take the time to actually secure a ladder during your training.   Visual aids will help workers fully understand and use these recommendations the next time they climb an extension ladder. Remember, taking the time to properly secure a ladder means your staff can secure their lives!