What’s Wrong With This Picture


An employee was observed climbing down a stepladder after having accessed an upper storage area. The storage area was rated for storage. The intended access point was located on the left side (not seen in the picture) and did not have obstacles or barriers to interfere with gaining access. OSHA has at least three standards relevant to the situation observed in the picture. OSHA states in 1910.23(b)(8), the employer must ensure “ladders are used only for the purposes for which they were designed.” This type of ladder is designed to be used in an open position with the metal spreader locked securely in place. This ladder is also too short. OSHA states in 1910.23(c)(11), the employer must ensure “portable ladders used to gain access to an upper landing surface have side rails that extend at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface.” Furthermore, the employee cannot hold onto the ladder when beginning the decent because the ladder is too short. OSHA states in 1910.23(b)(12), the employer must ensure “each employee uses at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing up and down it.”’
Using this ladder to perform this task could result in sprains, strains, contusions, and fractures due to falls from height. There also exists the possibility of permanent paralysis or death due to a fall from this height.
Corrective Actions
It is recommended that a job hazard analysis be performed for hazardous tasks and especially non-routine ones. Select the right tool for the job task. A standard portable ladder or an extension ladder of sufficient length would be an appropriate ladder choice. If the side rails extended at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface, the employee would be able to grasp the ladder with one hand when climbing up and down it. This would reduce the possibility of falling. Train employees on the proper use of ladders according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A good job hazard analysis might also identify the need to use a temporary barricade to keep the other activities or traffic away from the ladder while it is being used.
For more information on Ladder Safety, click here.