Simplifying your toolbox talks

What you need to know

Ladder usage is common on construction job sites, but many times that’s not the best tool for the job. Whenever possible, a mobile scaffold, scissor lift or other suitable elevated work platform with guardrails and appropriate fall protection for the device should be used instead of a ladder.

When you need to access an elevated work area, pre-task planning will include the selection of the best equipment to use. While a ladder might immediately come to mind, ask the following questions before making your decision:

  • Will awkward or heavy items be manually handled while on the ladder?
  • Is the work area too high for a ladder to be used safely?
  • Will the length of time to complete the task make ladder use unsafe?
  • Does the job require frequent moving and/or awkward body positioning?
  • Does the job require pulling, pushing, or holding tools or equipment?
  • Is reaching required that places the trunk of the body outside the ladder rails?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, avoid the use of a ladder and use a properly set-up and positioned alternative, such as a scissor lift or a mobile scaffold.

scissor lift and mobile scaffold

If you must use a ladder as the last option, select one that has a working platform with handrails on the sides, such as a podium stepladder. The ladder should be in good working condition and appropriately selected for the task.

Why it matters

Falls from ladders account for 23.8% of deaths in construction.1 Ladder usage is common on construction job sites, but many times that’s not the best tool for the job. Selecting the proper equipment to work at elevated heights can increase the productivity of your team while eliminating the fall hazards associated with the ladder.

Confirm review of this toolbox talks article.

Resources for you

Supplement this talk: Portable Ladder Safety

Construction resources: Construction Loss Control Services

[1]“The Construction Chart Book,” CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, produced with support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health grant number OH009762, (accessed March 10, 2023).

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