Figure 1: Illustration of ladders used in vessels
Figure 1: Illustration of ladders used in vessels.

Ladders are used in shipbuilding and ship repair to allow workers to gain access to multiple levels, and in some cases to work from. Hazards associated with the use of ladders include falls from the ladder caused by structural failure, poor placement, and inappropriate work practices.

Fiberglass, aluminum, and ship's ladders, which are also used in the shipyard and their maintenance requirements are addressed under the general requirements. [29 CFR 1915.72(a)]

Note: There are specific requirements for construction of portable wooden ladders that are less than 30 feet and 30-60 feet. [29 CFR 1915.72(b) and (c)]

Additional requirements where ladders are used:

Note: Confined space entry is one of the leading hazards associated with barge cleaning. Review the Ship Repair: Confined or Enclosed Spaces and Other Dangerous Atmospheres chapter for information on how to protect workers from this hazard.

Figure 2: Properly constructed, job made, portable wood ladder less than 30 feet in length

The safe construction and use of ladders can protect workers who are required to access multiple levels and when working from the ladder. Training workers on safe ladder use and how to assess the condition of the ladder before use is an important aspect of a safety and health program.

Figure 3: Improper practice - Improper placement angle of ladder; less than 4 to 1 ratio (height of ladder to horizontal distance out at base of ladder)

Potential Hazards

  • Structural failure of the ladder or its components, causing the worker to fall.
  • Inappropriate work practices (such as over-extending, climbing with equipment in hand, not facing ladder when climbing down), causing the worker to fall.
  • Electrical shock or electrocution when using metal ladders.
  • Inappropriate ladder placement (such as ladder angle), causing the worker to fall.
  • Unsecured ladder causing the ladder and worker to fall.
Figure 4: Improper practice - Working from unsecured ladder

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Defective ladders must not be used and must be removed immediately. [29 CFR 1915.72(a)(1)]
  • When splicing ladders, special precautions are required. [29 CFR 1915.72(a)(2)]
  • Portable ladders used for access must be secured and extend at least 36 inches above the upper landing. [29 CFR 1915.72(a)(3)]
  • Manufactured portable metal or wood ladders must be in accordance with ANSI standards. [29 CFR 1915.72(a)(4) and (a)(6)]
  • Portable metal ladders must not be used near electrical shock hazards (such as conductors, electric arc welding). [29 CFR 1915.72(a)(5)]
Figure 5: Improper practice - Improper use of step ladder for access

Additional Requirements

  • Hand lines or tool bags must be used to keep workers hands free when using ladders. [29 CFR 1915.131(a)]
  • Only use ladders for their designed purposes. [1910.23(b)(8)]
  • Portable straight ladders must have a 4-to-1 ratio. Ladders must not be used in a horizontal position as platforms, runways, or scaffolds. [29 CFR 1910.23 (Figure D-1)]
  • Employees visually restricted by blasting hoods, welding helmets, and burning goggles must work from scaffolds, not from ladders, except for the initial and final welding or burning operation. [29 CFR 1915.77(c)]
  • Portable ladders must be used when the ship's ladders in the cargo holds are defective. [29 CFR 1915.76(a)(3)]
Figure 6: Properly secured portable ladder extending 36 inches above landing

Additional requirements where ladders are used

Figure 7: Step ladder manufactured in accordance with ANSI standards, but shown in improper use position
Figure 8: Hand line near portable wood ladder for raising and lowering tools, etc. to allow hands free for climbing
Figure 9: Portable wood ladder at proper angle (4 to 1 ratio) but not extending the required 3 feet above the landing