On the left are ways not to use a ladder, while on the right is the proper way to use a ladder.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Whether cleaning rain gutters or dealing with holiday lights, people need to think “safety first” when using ladders.

“People get used to saying, ‘It is not that high,’” said Jason Morrow, an instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance program at the Waco campus. “It does not take that much when you fall to have a traumatic brain injury or broken bones.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide in 2020 there were more than 22,000 injuries and 161 fatal work injuries due to ladder-related accidents that were reported.

More than 5,300 of the injuries were in construction and extraction work, according to the bureau.

Hector Rosa, team lead for TSTC’s Building Construction Technology and Plumbing and Pipefitting Technology programs at the Harlingen campus, said first-semester construction program students learn about ladder safety in the Construction Technology I class using Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Center for Construction Education and Research standards.

“We give an example of how a ladder is used and have the students conduct several practices during the course,” Rosa said. “We teach them how to inspect the ladders before every use and how to place the ladder on a 4-1 ratio for balance and stability.”

Rosa said instructors explain to students why it is unsafe to use the top two steps of a stand-alone ladder.

“We show them how to extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the leaning rooftop to help access on and off the roof safely,” he said.

Building Construction Technology students also receive OSHA 30-hour construction training.

Morrow said there are things people need to remember when using ladders at home and in the workplace.

“A visual inspection is a good thing, but knowing the parts and identifying pieces and components of the ladder is what we teach them (students) as well,” he said.

Morrow said people can determine how tall a ladder is by the number of steps it has.

He said three points of contact must be on the ladder at all times, whether it is two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot. People should always face the ladder when using it and stay as close as possible to it.

Morrow said the best footwear for people to wear is that with rubber soles or heels. He said soles need to be clean to decrease slipping, and steps on a ladder should be clean and dry.

He said using ladders while barefoot or wearing flip-flops is not recommended.

Morrow said having the ladder on level, stable ground is important. Ladders can also be tied to a fixed object to increase stability. The ladder’s feet need to be in good condition.

“It keeps the ladder from tipping or losing its balance,” Morrow said.

Morrow said people should not be alone when using ladders. He said someone should be with or near the person who is using the ladder in case any problems occur.

“Use common sense, and do not rush,” he said.

Morrow said people should not try carrying items up ladders, but rather tie them to a rope and hoist them up or wear a tool belt. Items should not be left on top of ladders because these can be falling hazards.

Registration continues for TSTC’s spring semester. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

tstc logo