Ladders, Ice, and Snow Can Be a Deadly Combination

Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean outdoor operations stop. In fact, many operations are busier during the year’s coldest months than they are in the spring and summer.

There are still orders to fill, supplies to be stored, inventory to be counted, and all the other responsibilities that are necessary for a successful business — including occasionally climbing up on a ladder.

Yet using a ladder in winter weather is much more hazardous than climbing one in warm, sunny weather. Rungs can be covered in ice and snow. Freezing temperatures mean workers are likely to be bundled in more clothing. And fast-moving winter winds can easily push a ladder over or cause a climber to tumble.

Employer Responsibilities

During the winter, ladder use should be limited to only those tasks that are absolutely essential. If there are other alternatives — such as using a cherry picker, scissor lift, or forklift equipped with a work platform attachment — these may be both safer and more efficient.

If you do require workers to climb up on a ladder outdoors in wintry weather, you may be held responsible if something goes wrong. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration,  employers are required to protect workers from falls at any height higher than 4 feet for normal work, and higher than 6 feet for construction work.

Removing Snow Safely

One of the most common outdoor tasks requiring ladders in the winter is removing snow from products, supplies, shelving, roofs, and other areas. Snow can cause damage to property, especially if it is wet and heavy. Getting snow off materials provides more access. But it also lets customers and clients see products, supplies, and materials, which can help boost sales.

Before ordering any worker to climb up a ladder during winter, it’s important that they know what they are doing and are aware of the dangers. If necessary, you should supply the proper fall protection equipment. Depending on the height, this may include safety harnesses, guard rails, slip-resistant boots and ladder steps, or other gear.

Getting Up and Down Safely

Workers should be assigned to teams of at least two people so that one person is never climbing a ladder alone and unsupervised. If a fall should occur and the worker is caught by his or her fall protection system, the other worker can alert others for help and assist in getting their partner down safely.

Using ladders in the winter poses multiple hazards. Following best safety practices can help reduce accidents and injuries, as well as employer liability.


Everything You Need to Know about Choosing Ladders

ladder safety

(Editor’s Note: In today’s Thursday Feature, we take a closer look at one of the most common and frequently used tools in any material handling operation … the ladder.)

We use ladders so often that we tend to take them for granted. But when you are in need of a ladder and don’t have one — or have the wrong size for the job at hand — you quickly learn to appreciate them.

When buying a new ladder, it’s important to consider a few simple factors to make sure you are choosing the right ladder for the job. Here are some simple steps you can use to guarantee you always get the ladder you need.

Step 1 — Choose the Right Ladder Style

There are many different styles of ladders, each of which is designed to keep people when working at elevated heights.

Stepladders have a set of steps on one side and a support brace on the other, both of which are tied together with a hinge that allows the ladder to be easily folded for storage. This is the most common ladder for painting and small jobs at relatively low heights.

Step stools typically have only one or two steps and are relatively short in height. They are used to access the lowest heights.

Straight ladders have are leaned against a wall or building.

Extension ladders have two or more retracting segments that can be locked together for stability, as well as rubber or soft plastic feet for a secure grip with the ground. These types of ladders, which usually are leaned against a wall, are commonly used to access roofs and higher areas.

Step 2 — Choose the Proper Height

The ladder you use should be tall enough to reach the area you want to access. Extension ladders should be 7 to 10 feet longer than the highest support or contact point, such as a wall or roof line. This allows enough length for proper setup, overlap of ladder sections, height restrictions of the highest standing level, and when appropriate, extension of the ladder above the roof line. The highest standing level is four rungs down from the top.

On stepladders, the highest safe standing level is two steps down from the top.  If you go higher than that, you risk losing your balance and falling. The maximum safe reaching height is about 4 feet higher than the height of the ladder. So, for example, if you are painting an 8-foot ceiling, you can safely use a four foot ladder.

Step 3 — Duty Rating

Ladders are graded to support a maximum allowable weight. Most ladders come in five different duty ratings, depending on their grade and type. A duty rating is the maximum safe load for the ladder and is described in terms of pounds, such as 300 lbs. It should take into account body weight, clothing and the weight of the tools or other materials being carried by the person.

Ladders are also built to handle demands of various applications. For example, a ladder used on a construction site typically will be bounced around and beat up more than a ladder used in a warehouse. So its duty rating should be higher.

Workers should consider both the weight that the ladder will support and how the ladder will be used when selecting the proper duty rating.

Step 4 — Ladder Material

The final decision when buying a new ladder is the type of material that it is made out of. The most common types of ladders are aluminum and fiberglass. Both have characteristics that make them the better choice for particular applications.

For example, if the ladder is going to be used in an area where it could potentially come into contact with live electrical wiring, fiberglass probably would be the best choice. But if the ladder is going to be used for routine tasks and needs to be more lightweight so that it can be stored and transported more easily, aluminum might be the better option.

OSHA Ladder Safety Recommendations

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers these recommendations to prevent falls from ladders:

  • Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
  • Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
  • Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing (see diagram).
  • Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
  • Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
  • Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
  • Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
  • Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
  • Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
  • A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.
  • Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder’s load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.


Rules for Using a Ladder Correctly

Tips for Ladder Safety
Tips for Ladder Safety

If you work on utility poles, do exterior painting, wash windows or any other job where ‘dealing with heights’ is a skill required to carry out daily functions then you have more than likely been grilled on safety tips for using a ladder. However, painters and carpenters are not the only ones who will ever be on a ladder. In fact, if you work a blue collar job you will use a ladder from time to time at your occupation. Consequently, it is important if you manage a group of workers and/or want to be informed that you brush up on rules for using a ladder correctly from time to time.


Attic ladder, Extension ladder, Hook ladder, Step ladder: Using a ladder correctly all begins with making the proper selection. How do you make the appropriate selection? The general rule is that the ladder user can safely reach no higher than 3 to 4 feet above the top of a step ladder. If you are stretching to reach further than that you are using too small of a step ladder. For single/extension ladders the general rule is the highest standing level is four rungs down from the top.

Also, keep note of the ANSI Duty Rating which is labeled on the ladder. It indicates the maximum safe load capacity (person and tools). Ladders are produced out of wood, aluminum and fiberglass. Fiberglass is considered not only the most durable but safe. Aluminum is also durable yet vulnerable near electricity.


After picking the appropriate ladder for the job double check the ladder for:

• Cracks, splits, corrosion
• Steps/rungs free of oil/grease
• Steps/rungs firmly attached to side rails
• Moveable parts operate smoothly without binding
• Safety feet/base in good condition
• Ropes in good condition (if applicable)

These are all basic measures to make sure the ladder is safe to climb and only take a few minutes of your time yet ensure the safety of its use. If a ladder is ever found defective do not attempt to repair. Discard and purchase a new one.

Proper Use

The proper use of a ladder is broken down into three simple steps: location, ladder setup and climbing. Placing the ladder in a safe location essentially comes down to common sense. Make sure the base is stable, do not place a ladder in front of a door, never use metal ladders around electrical equipment, etc, etc.

Never set a ladder on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases to gain height. Ladders are only to be used on a flat surface and when the base is uneven, wooden boards braced under the ladder can serve as a level.

The general rule is to angle the ladder 1 foot away from the wall at the base for every 4 feet of ladder length (i.e. 12 foot ladder is 3 feet from wall). If you plan to access the roof or another elevated location the ladder should always extend at least 3 feet above the roof/extended location. Securing the ladder at the top is always recommended yet if not an option always have someone ‘support’ the ladder at ground level, especially if ladder is 16 feet or longer.

When climbing a ladder never stand/work on the top three rungs of a single/extension ladder. For stepladders do not stand on the topcap, or first step. Always use the ‘Belt Buckle Rule’ when climbing a ladder including keeping at least three points of the body contact with the ladder (2 feet + 1 hand, or hips or chest).

Fiberglass Ladders

Fiberglass ladders have railing that are made with reinforced fiberglass and skid-resistant aluminum steps.

Fiberglass ladder is not your traditional ladder. This equipment was designed to be at the forefront of the wooden and aluminum type of ladder.

Fiberglass ladders, as the name implies, are made with fiberglass which is a durable, non-conductive material. This type of ladder is ideal for applications that require working with wire and electrical connections, as well as for repair, maintenance and painting applications. Most fiberglass ladders are step ladder variety which has middle hinge and opens up creating an inverted V shape. The twin side feature of fiberglass ladder offers convenience because you can move from one side to another without dismounting.  And because this ladder has 4 sturdy feet with rubber pads, two people can ride this ladder at the same time. For sturdier construction, fiberglass ladders have aluminum steps, traction threads and slip resistant rubber feet.

Bahrns Material Handling Equipment carries high quality fiberglass ladders that passed ANSI 1AA and CSA Grade1 classification. These fiberglass ladders are available in different sizes and colors.

Stepping Stands

Dixie offers different varieties of stepping stands; a single step stand (E), 2-4 steps stand with handrail (C), 1-3 steps stand with side handhold (A,B,D) and a 4-step stand with handrail and caster (not in the picture).

Stepping stands are one of a kind sturdy ladder designed for smaller applications. This type of ladder has 1 to 4 steps structure that is made with high density polyethylene materials and features anti-skid rubber feet. These bright-colored stepping stands are stackable, lightweight and resistant to water and chemical which makes it ideal for outdoor use.

E-Z offers all-weather stepping stands that are made with polyethylene materials and features a unique waffle-like design.  E-Z stepping stands features replaceable rubber feet and carrying handle and it comes in bright yellow with blue middle accent. TODD on the other hand offers stepping stand in dark gray color. TODD stepping stand is made with molded polyethylene and features a safe gripping surface.

Another best selling brand of stepping stands is DIXIE. It offers a wider range of stepping stands that are stackable and features replaceable rubber feet. Dixie also offers 2 and 4-step stands with tool storage, 3-step with side handhold and 4-step stand with safety handrail and casters.

Stock Picking Ladders

Stock picking ladders features tired shelves which you can use to handle and store items.

Stock picking ladders are special types of ladder with smart design that features tiered shelves for extra storage and self locking, swivel casters for mobility. This type of ladder is use ideally for stocking and pulling items that are placed on high shelves and/or spaces, thus its name. The stock picking ladders are made with high grade steel for durability and features spring-loaded ladder steps with skip-resistant rubber feet.

Two of the best selling brands of stock picking ladders are VESTIL and GILLIS. GILLIS offers all-in-one stock picking ladders that features tiered shelves and extra drawer. It is made with 12-ga steel which can handle 1000 lbs of weight.

VESTIL on the other hand offers different varieties of stock picking ladders; with tiered shelves, L-shape and the combination step ladder/hand truck. These varieties of VESTIL stock picking ladders offer different features which provide different purposes. The VESTIL stock picking ladder with tiered shelves allows you to pull stocks that are 10 feet off the ground and use the shelves to hold the said stocks while you are reaching another one. The L-shape shelf on the other hand is ideal for handling boxes and other bulky items. The combination step ladder/ hand truck on the other hand offers a versatile and portable stock picking ladder. It also has a wider top step that you can use to handle few pieces of stocks. All these and more are available at Bahrns Material Handling Equipment.

Mobile Ladders

Relius Solutions offers a unique mobile ladder with power parts tray which has a powerful internal motor that can lift and lower various parts and materials

Mobile ladder is another variety of industrial ladders which provides a specific, special purpose. It is a movable, self supporting industrial ladder which features self locking casters and sturdy feet with rubber pads, which are often replaceable.

Mobile ladders are made with industrial grade steel materials that are welded and screw together. These ladders are designed to handle at lease 300 pounds of weight and features slip-resistant steps, handrail and top guard rail. This type of ladder provides fixed height and angle, as well as robust support which makes it ideal for maintenance, repair and other industrial and commercial applications. However, since mobile ladders have fixed structure, it requires bigger storage spaces compare to that of a regular industrial ladder.

RELIUS SOLUTIONS, EGA, EUROKRAFT and VESTIL are the best selling brands of mobile ladders which are carried by Bahrns Material Handling Equipment. These brands offer wide range of mobile ladders that are meant for maintenance and warehousing applications. Bahrns also carries RELIUS SOLUTIONS Rolling Warehouse Ladders with Powered Parts Tray which has a powerful internal motor with lifting and lowering controls. As well as VESTIL Lock and Roll Folding Ladders with Wheels; a small foldable mobile ladder which is ideal for residential and smaller industrial applications.

Access Ladders

Access ladders are usually fixed on wall and structures to provide safe and easy access to elevated and recessed places and structures

Access ladder is a variety of ladder that is designed to provide fixed, easy access to elevated, hard to reach places and structures such as docks, towers, mezzanines, platforms and roofs, as well as on descending structures like manhole, tanks and chambers. This equipment is usually made with tubular steel or aluminum materials that can withstand corrosion and handle extreme weight and pressure.

Access ladders have welded structure that features slip resistant steps and sturdy railing for superior stability. Although this variety of ladder provides the common ladder purpose, access ladders are often fixed on walls in safe elevated angle, unlike its other mobile counterpart. Access ladders are commonly used on industrial, commercial and residential buildings. The most familiar example of access ladders are those used for fire escapes.

GILLIS and EGA are two of the most favored brand of access ladders. They offer premium quality and reasonable priced access ladders in different shapes and sizes. Both manufacturers also carry wide selection  other industrial quality ladders that are designed for specific purposes.


Ladders are used to access and reach high places like ceilings, walls, roofs and top shelves among others.

Ladders are used to access hard to reach spaces like top shelves, ceiling, high windows and walls among others. Ladders are very helpful not only for residential and construction places but also for commercial and industrial establishments as well.

Ladders are made with heavy duty materials like steel, aluminum, wood and/or molded plastic. These materials can handle great weight and pressure and usually have protective finish. Ladders have safety features like anti-slip footings, wide steps and an even wider working platform.

There are different types, size and designs of ladders which are intended for specific applications. You can find wide selection of ladders in the market such as portable ladder, fixed ladder, mobile ladder, ladder trucks, slope ladder, access ladder, stepping stands and platform ladder. Most favored manufacturers of these ladders are VESTIL, EGA, GILLIS, DIXIE, TODD, EUROKRAFT, RELIUS SOLUTIONS and LOUISVILLE.

Industrial Stairway

Mezzanines and Prefabricated Buildings

Industrial stairways are used to provide sturdy access to high areas like platforms and mezzanines among others.

Mezzanines and platforms are high structures that require sturdy tools like industrial stairways for easy and safe access. Industrial stairway is made with durable, industrial grade materials like steel and tube metals. It also features anti-slip footings and channel stringers for firm support.

Industrial stairway has all-welded fabrication so it can support extreme weights and pressure. It also features safety railings and wide steps for added protection for users. EGA, is well known for their high quality industrial stairways that has meet the standards of OSHA and BOCA. EGA carries different sizes of industrial stairways with different elevations and can support different weights.

Industrial stairways from EGA feature wide stair threads and the technologically advanced Grip-Strut anti-slip footings. And for added protection from corrosion and rust, EGA industrial stairways are coated with premium enamel finish.