Ladder Safety

Always at the top of my list as a small window cleaning company owner is ladder safety. It has the capability to cause a wide variety of traumatic events if not taken 100% seriously. Maintaining equipment and proper placement of ladders along with safe usage of ladders has always been of the utmost importance to me. Whether it be an injury to an employee, an injury to myself or damaging a customer’s property. There are so many ways that ladders can be detrimental to our businesses. All it would take is one fall and your life could be changed forever. That is not my desire and I’m sure not yours. Even if you own a water fed pole you will still have to use ladders for various tasks in window cleaning the various add on services associated with the work.

I have personally found that complacency is my #1 enemy on ladders. I’ve been doing this for a number of years and the heights do not faze me as much as when I was new. I try to always maintain my 3 points of contact to the ladder at all times but it is impossible to maintain that all the time while cleaning windows.

The friend that helped teach me this trade has a large company. Recently he had an employee fall from a ladder. Thus far he has paid 130k in hospital bills for that individual. I don’t know how well you guys’ companies are financially but the hit he took would pretty much do me in at the present time. Fortunately for my friend, he has the money and his employee will recover 100%.

Ladder Leg Levelers are a must for window cleaning as we constantly clean windows positioned above slopes. A ladder stopper is also a must as they protect both your customers floors and you from ladder sliding. Ladder Mitts or Bonnets serve to protect indoor and outdoor surfaces that ladders will come into contact with - also a must.

The above link is to a YouTube video regarding ladder falls.

3 Types of Ladders

Type I – Industrial: heavy-duty with a load capacity not more than 250 pounds.
Type II – Commercial: medium-duty with a load capacity not more than 225 pounds. (Suited for painting and similar tasks.)
Type III – Household: light-duty with a load capacity of 200 pounds.
O.S.H.A. website regarding ladder safety.

Feel free to give any ladder tips you have. Whether it be equipment tips or usage tips.

The two attached thumbnails below are 1. Me cleaning a window from an extension ladder while maintaining a 3 point contact with the ladder. (two legs and one arm) 2. A graph of how to properly lean a ladder against a surface.

Safety guide from Featherlight ladders is excellent.

Recent stories & download links for UK publications here.

As I understand it the 3 points of contact are while ascending or descending a ladder. For construction trades 3 points of contact at all times is impossible.

This is a good topic to bring up.
Two years ago, I started trainng my guys on ladder safety. I search the web for videos and finally purchased the Werner ladder safety video. It was a decent safety video. Mostly showcased working around electrical. One of the safety tips on that video that stuck out was that when you are on an extention ladder, never lean past your belt buckle. This could cause an unbalance in the ladder (shifting the weight to one side too much).

I have two of my guys that are graduating from firefighting school at the end of March. Im hoping that they can bring new techniques and safety procedures to the company.

Another thing that is a must for ladder safety(my opinion) is the ladder stabilizer - or as some call it a standoff, Gets the ladder away from the glass enough to do the work safely. Its also a MUST for doing gutter cleaning. Prevents bending up the gutter and provides easy on and easy off to the roof.

Thanks for the posts guys as all provide very pertinent information regarding ladder safety.

Another tidbit is to wear shoes that have a raised heel to prevent feet from slipping off the rungs. I often wearing Nike running shoes that have flat soles while working as they are comfortable to me.

Could your waist be considered a third contact if your hands are occupied?

If you clean windows without pants.:slight_smile:

The IWCA has a lot of good material to train employees on all aspects of safety. If you go to the convention, make sure you take Stephen Brights’ Safety Seminar. Ladder safety is the most important, it causes the vast majority of accidents and injuries.

Good Question Seth and one that I wish I had read those hundred or so posts that went through Gary’s World regarding it.


Don’t show up with this baby in hand! :slight_smile:

I’m so dying to make and use one of those bad boys! Got one in your back yard, Dwight?:eek:

Check the WCN archives.

I’ve been meaning to ask this, but never got around to it. I noticed on the diagram that Dwight posted pertaining to ladder setup, and it’s also in the AUWC safety manual, that you should make sure the top of your ladder is at least 3 feet beyond the contact point at roof’s edge. I don’t quite understand the reasoning. I guess my concern is at what point you are to get on and off the last rung.
Thank you to anyone who can furnish the logic behind this standard.

I’m going to try and search further Dan but I have rarely if ever witnessed safety standards that come equipped with the reasoning for them discussed along with the standard.

I think the 3 ft rule would make sense if you were going to be exiting the ladder at the top to approach the roof. It would serve as something to hold onto as you make your exit from the ladder onto to roof. For our purposes as window cleaners we mostly just go to point on the ladder high enough to clean the window.

Here is what it reads in the O.S.H.A. Regs:
When portable ladders are used for access to an upper landing surface, the ladder side rails shall extend at least 3 feet (.9 m) above the upper landing surface to which the ladder is used to gain access; or, when such an extension is not possible because of the ladder’s length, then the ladder shall be secured at its top to a rigid support that will not deflect, and a grasping device, such as a grabrail, shall be provided to assist employees in mounting and dismounting the ladder. In no case shall the extension be such that ladder deflection under a load would, by itself, cause the ladder to slip off its support.

Actually this reg does explain why…it’s all there.

Maybe it’s me not picturing properly what you cited from O.S.H.A., but I don’t see any reasoning provided. There shouldn’t be any more or less deflection in any direction based on the ending height of the ladder. If the standing angle is too low so that a danger of slipping out exists or if the ladder is not level laterally, then there are problems. One of my fears is depending [B]TOO[/B] much on the top rung to support some of my weight when getting on or off and making the bottom kick out. Of course the higher the point of contact is to the top of the ladder, the less effect your weight has on the bottom.
I picture myself getting off the roof back onto the ladder from the side of the ladder and wanting to hold onto a rung at about waist level or lower

I guess it’s all in what we’ve grown accustomed to doing on homes. I have actually always made my ladder go about 3 feet above the roof of a home when I am going to dismount it to work on the roof. I just like the comfort of having an armrail of sorts to help me balance myself while mounting to descend. The reg states that if you cannot reach the ladder that far then you must tie the ladder off.

An excellent example of why this is better is in the above video. Ouch!

Wouldn’t that mean that your ladder is resting upon a gutter if one is present at that same location?

I use a stabilizer resting on the roof above the gutter in most cases when I have roof work necessitating a ladder exit (step-ladder access notwithstanding.)

Do you still use a stabilizer (mounted three feet from the end of the ladder?!?) in the scenario you describe above?

I use a adjustable standoff for about 99% of the time with my 24 footer with ladder levelers. When doing 2nd story windows it is great because i can adjust the standoff to it’s widest point and do a set off double windows or a big Foyer in one climb. I also use the standoff for getting on and off a roof, I know the ladder will not move on me. Safety is priority one with me, I did alot of roofing in my 20’s and 30’s and have seen people fall from ladders because of not using proper safety procedures. I tell people who work for me that safety is first and foremost with me.