Have you inspected your portable ladder lately?

Follow these steps to ensure extension, step and mobile ladders are safe for use
man climbing ladder

Portable ladders are a common piece of equipment, both at home and at work, yet, we often take these devices for granted and overlook the inspection process. Although there are several types of construction material used to build them, they are all subjected to damage and potential failure.

In Canada, the CSA Group has adopted three categories for ladders based on use, load rating and weight limit. They are Grade 1 (industrial and construction use; heavy duty load rating; weight limit of 250 pounds); Grade 2 (light maintenance and office; medium duty load rating; weight limit of 225 pounds); and Grade 3 (household use; light duty load rating; and weight limit of 200 pounds). 

The most common types in use are extension ladders, step ladders and mobile ladder stands. They may be constructed with following material: aluminum, fibreglass, wood or metal. Selection will be dependent on the type of work you will be performing.

These ladders should be inspected prior to each use to ensure they are still meeting the manufacturer’s design specifications and CSA’s standard. The inspection process should look for the following issues:

Extension ladder

•Inspect the side rails of the base and fly sections to ensure there are no dents, bends or other blemishes.

•Ensure that all end caps and slide-guides are free from cracks, chips and wear.

•Ensure all fasteners are present and tight.

•Inspect rope and pulley to ensure the rope moves freely and is not frayed, knotted or stretched

•The base and fly sections need to be straight and cannot be twisted or warped.

•Inspect all rungs for dents and cracks, and ensure they do not rotate.

•Inspect the safety feet for worn rubber pads and loose or missing fasteners.

•Gravity locks should pivot freely and the fingers should be in good working condition.

Step ladder

•Inspect the Copolymer top for cracks or dents

•Inspect all side rails for cracks, dents, bends or any other blemishes.

•Ensure that all fasteners are present and tight.

•Safety feet are to be tight, and rubber foot pads are present, tight and free of wear.

•Spreader arms need to move freely and lock properly. The spreader-to-rail connections are to be stiff and rigid.

•Ensure that all steps, horizontal and step braces are present, free of bends and dents and tight.

Fibreglass ladder

•A separation of material not visible from the other side. Ensure it does not deteriorate any further.

•A see through separation of the fibreglass laminations visible from both sides. The ladder should be removed from service.

•A puncture that is visible from both sides. The ladder should be removed from service.

Mobile ladder stands

•Inspect for unusual wear or deterioration.

•Ensure welds are not damaged, cracked or have significant corrosion.

•Look for any loose bolts, nuts or connections. These must be tightened.

•The base needs to be straight and cannot be twisted or warped.

•Ensure all steps are free of bends and dents. They should be tight.

•Inspect legs and handrails for dents, bends or other blemishes.

•All threaded fasteners must be equipped with locking hardware.

•Inspect wheels, casters and rubber pads to ensure they are not worn or damaged.

It is good practice to use an inspection form to guide you in reviewing your portable ladder. The ladder manufacturers often have great instructions (on-line) and a checklist for inspection purposes. These are great resources for your use.

Remember, if you are in doubt about the condition of the portable ladder, tag it out and do not use it. It should be replaced with another one.

Guy Chenard

Guy Chenard is a safety professional working in Sarnia, Ont. He is on the editorial advisory board for Canadian Occupational Safety and is the author of Organizational Safety Management: Strategies and Implementation. He can be reached at guychenard@live.ca.
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