There are three basic types of ladders used in nursery/greenhouse operations: step, portable/extension, and fixed. Many of the same safety rules apply to each type.
The first part of safe ladder usage is to select only good quality, heavy duty ladders. Inspect them regularly. Quickly observe the general condition of a ladder before you climb that first step. See that no rungs are broken or missing, there is no oil or grease on the ladder, and the side rails are not damaged. If it does not look safe to you, let your supervisor know.
The second part of safe ladder usage is the use of good safety practices.
- Place the ladder so the distance between the wall and the foot of the ladder is about equal to 1/4 the length of the ladder. This means that the foot of a 12 foot ladder should be 3 feet away from the wall.
- The top of the ladder should extend 3 feet beyond the landing to allow you safe hand support to step off of and back onto the ladder.
- Never step on a rung above the upper support because it could make the base of the ladder “Kick Out.”
- The ladder should be long enough so you can work standing no higher than the fourth rung from the top. This allows you to comfortably grasp the side rails.
- When you have set the ladder in place, check to see that the footing is level and firm. Make sure the area around the base is free of oil, grease, water, or tools which could cause a fall or slip. Check to see that the extension ladder locks are both in position.
- If you are working on a ladder higher than 15 feet off the ground, make sure that it is securely latched or a helper is facing the ladder and holding it with both hands.
- Climb down off the ladder to move it each time you need to reach a new work area.
- Do not overreach from the ladder.
- Do not straddle the space between the ladder and another object.
- Never place the ladder in front of a door unless the door is locked, blocked, or guarded.
- Always face the ladder when going up or coming down. Keep both hands free for climbing.
- Only one person at a time should be on a ladder.
- Never stand ladders on boxes, barrels, or other makeshift objects to increase their height.
- Always use a ladder which is the proper length.
- When you carry a ladder, balance it on your shoulder near the center. Keep the front end high enough to clear a worker’s head and the back end near the ground.
- Do not use metal ladders around electrical equipment. Use wood or fiberglass ones instead.
- Never lean a ladder against unsafe backing, such as loose boxes, etc.
- Ladders should be stored where they will not be exposed to the weather and where there is good ventilation. They can be hung on brackets against a wall.
- Remember, a failure to follow safety procedures properly or to pay attention to workplace safety could result in injury to you or your fellow workers.
NOTE: Use a good ladder to demonstrate a safe way, and don’t fall, it would be quite embarrassing.