We all know that working on and around stairways and ladders is dangerous and can lead to injury or death in the construction industry. That's why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many rules and safety standards that apply to all stairways and ladders used in repair, painting, decorating, alteration, demolition and construction.
A previous post on our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers blog discussed a compliance tool published to assist employers with preventing fall-related injuries and deaths among residential construction workers. Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Gastonia are aware that falls are the primary cause of construction workers' deaths.
Employers must provide ladders and stairways when:
-There is a gap in elevation of 19 inches or more and no runway, embankment, ramp or personnel hoist is available.
-There is only a single point of access between levels that must remain clear of obstacles. If the single point of access becomes restricted, a second point of access must be provided for workers to use.
-If there are more than two points of access, employers must keep at least one point clear for easy passage.
The following rules are relevant for all ladders:
-To avoid a slipping hazard, ladders must be free of any oil or grease.
-Never load ladders above their maximum load nor above their manufacturer's rated capacity.
-Use ladders only on level and stable surfaces, unless they're secured, to prevent unintended movement.
-Never use ladders on slippery surfaces. If it must be on a slippery surface, use slip-resistant feet and secure the ladder to prevent accidental movement.
-Always secure ladders to prevent movement in high traffic areas such as doorways, passageways or driveways -- or put up a barricade to eliminate traffic and activity around the ladder.
-The top and bottom of ladders should be kept clear.
-Never shift, move or extend ladders while in use.
-When using ladders around energized electrical equipment, they should be equipped with nonconductive side rails.
-Always face the ladder when going up or down.
-When climbing a ladder, use at least one hand to hold on.
-Never carry loads or objects that could throw you off balance and cause a fall.
When ladders become unusable the following rules apply:
-Any portable or fixed ladders with structural damage must be tagged/marked defective and taken out of service immediately.
-Defective fixed ladders can be blocked by using plywood attached to several rungs indicating it is out of service.
-Before putting a damaged ladder back in service, the condition of a repaired ladder must meet its original design criteria.
The following rules apply to all stairways:
-Non-permanent stairways must have landings 22 inches wide and at least 30 inches deep.
-Stairways must be installed at least 30 degrees and not more than 50 degrees from the horizontal. Stair tread depth or riser height variations must not exceed 1/4 inch.
-Directly opening doors and gates on stairways must have a platform that extends at a minimum of 20 inches beyond their swing.
-Metal pan treads and metal pan landings must be held in place before filling.
-Protruding nails must be fixed on stairway parts.
-Slippery conditions must be corrected immediately on stairways.
-Spiral stairways cannot be used by workers unless they are a permanent part of the structure.
Employers must train all workers to identify hazards related to ladders and stairways. Every employee needs to know the potential of fall hazards on the job site, the correct procedures for assembling, maintaining and disassembling the fall protection systems, how to properly construct, use and place all stairways and ladders, and the maximum load capacities of ladders.