PestSure Blog

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Ladder Safety 101


Ladder safety is crucial for pest control professionals because falls from ladders can result in serious injuries or even fatalities. Using ladders improperly or without following safety guidelines can lead to accidents resulting in injury.

According to data collected from PestSure insureds, ladder accidents are the result of these two behaviors:

  • Using too short a ladder to reach too high an access point causing the ladder to tip over.
  • Placing ladders on unstable or slippery surfaces and not paying close attention to ladder angle.

Accidents like these can cause fractures, sprains, strains, head injuries, and death. Proper ladder safety practices help prevent such accidents, ensuring a safer work environment for employees and customers.

Ladders accidents can also be costly. According to PestSure, the average claim cost for a ladder fall in 2023 was $13,000 per claim. In some instances that number reached upwards of $80,000.

Ladder Basics

The environment of your work site is the first factor in choosing the material from which your ladder is constructed. Ladders are built from one of three basic materials - wood, fiberglass, and metal (aluminum).

For example, if you are working near sources of electricity, a metal ladder should be rejected since aluminum is an electrical conductor. Your body can complete an electrical circuit between the electrical power source, the ladder, and then to the ground in the event of a live wire contact incident.

An electrical shock while working from a ladder can trigger a fall or cause your heart to stop leading to serious injury or death. On the other hand, if there are no electrical power sources in your work area, the aluminum ladder is the lightest weight when compared to fiberglass or wood.

There are also several kinds of ladders manufactured for a variety of uses. Again, evaluation of your work environment and task, and knowledge of what ladders are available will allow you to choose the right ladder for the job. Each of the following considerations addresses safety issues in your work environment: 

  • Will the ladder be resting on an uneven surface?
  • Is the work area crowded with people and/or materials?
  • What obstructions are in the path of the climb?

Ladder Length

Next, the proper ladder length must be selected. It is unsafe to use a ladder that is too long or too short. When using a step ladder, for example, standing on the top cap or the step below the top cap is not permitted due to the increased likelihood of losing your balance. Likewise, when using an extension ladder, the top three rungs are not to be used for climbing. A straight ladder is too long, for example, if ceiling height prohibits the ladder from being set-up at the proper angle.

An extension ladder is too long if the ladder extends more than 3 ft. beyond the upper support point. In this case, the portion of the ladder that extends above the upper support point can act like a lever and cause the base of the ladder to move or slide out. Safety standards require a label on the ladder to indicate the highest standing level.

Ladder Duty Rating

Ladder duty rating is an indication of the maximum weight capacity the ladder can safely carry. To figure out the total amount of weight your ladder will be supporting, add:

  • Your Weight; plus
  • The Weight of Your Clothing and Protective Equipment; plus
  • The Weight of Tools and Supplies You Are Carrying; plus
  • The Weight of Tools and Supplies Stored on the Ladder

There are five categories of ladder Duty Ratings:

  • Type IAA (extra heavy duty) – 375 pounds
  • Type IA (extra heavy duty) – 300 pounds
  • Type 1 (heavy duty) – 250 pounds
  • Type II (medium duty) – 225 pounds
  • Type III (light duty) – 200 pounds

The duty rating of your ladder can be found on the specifications label. Safety standards require a duty rating sticker to be placed on the side of every ladder. Do not assume that a longer ladder has a higher weight capacity. There is no relationship between ladder length and weight capacity.

Your work environment, including the physical size restrictions, is the most important factor in determining the variation of ladder to use for a given job. The versatility of the ladder, however, is a major consideration.

Note: Portions of the information in this blog were adapted from the American Ladder Institute’s Ladder Safety Training library.

PestSure – Your Partner in Safety

Founded in 1980, PestSure is the only insurance and risk management provider that is 100 percent dedicated to the pest management industry. It offers industry professionals a full suite of insurance, risk management, and safety training and education offerings.

PestSure provides insurance, safety and risk management consulting to pest management companies representing $2 billion in revenue, $750 million in payroll and more than 16,500 service vehicles. The program is administered by Alliant Insurance Services.

Call 888.984.3813 or visit our contact page for more information.

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