Ladder Safety for Electrical Work

Updated February 21, 2017

Electrocution, electrical burns and shocks and falls from ladders because of contact with electricity are the kinds of injuries and accidents that can occur when working with ladders on or around sources of electricity. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends specific controls and actions to prevent injuries and deaths while working with metal ladders. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) construction industry regulations have requirements for safe use of ladders and working near an electrical circuit.

Bilingual Communications and Controls

The NIOSH reports that its investigations of worker deaths while working around overhead power lines with metal ladders indicate these fatal incidents happen to Hispanic workers disproportionately more than to English-speaking workers. Present bilingual safety training about the hazards of overhead electrical power lines, as well as the proper uses of ladders, including carrying, moving and setting up, what to do during an electrical accident or injury, and awareness of electrical sources. Metal ladders especially should have safety labels in English and Spanish with graphics. Display worksite safety signage in English and Spanish, especially on and around electrical power sources. Train on OSHA regulations regarding ladder safety and overhead electrical power lines in the classroom and in writing in English and Spanish.

Work-site Setup

Survey every work site before a job begins and identify and communicate, verbally and in writing, the location of overhead power lines, including distances and heights, and on-site diagrams for supervisors and employees. Introduce safety procedures for work sites at or near overhead power lines and live electrical sources, including not storing tools, materials or equipment near or below overhead power lines or other sources of electrical power, not using metal ladders near or on work sites with live overhead power lines, and always carrying ladders horizontally, never vertically, especially near power lines. Contact the electrical power company to de-energise or cover overhead lines at the site during work.

Working Near or Under Overhead Power

Look at overhead power lines at the beginning of each day working near or under them. Note the location and distance from the ground and condition of lines and equipment. Set up ladders and elevated equipment in a secure manner so they don't fall into power lines: make sure they are level and tied or weighted down securely. Never go near or touch a person or equipment that is in contact with a live electric source.

Learn OSHA Regulations Regarding Ladders and Electrical Safety

OSHA's construction industry standards include various regulations regarding ladder and electrical safety. Learning the regulations increases awareness and improves safe practices on work sites. OSHA's standard 29 CFR 1926.1053 Ladders outlines the safe use of ladders on work sites, including requirements about loads, positioning, condition of ladders, set up, ladder components, clearance, safety devices, inspections and moving and transporting ladders. OSHA's standard 29 CFR 1926.416(a) Electrical General Requirements outlines requirements for safely working around electrical powers sources, including barriers, clutter hazards, loads, fuses and cords and cables. OSHA's standard 29 CFR 1926.26 Portable Metal Ladders outlines condition, set up, load, use, maintenance and securing ladders. OSHA's standard 1910.333(c) Electrical outlines safe work practices around electrical contacts, equipment and circuits and other electrical hazards, including de-energising live electricity before work, lockout and tagging, requirements about clearance of operable equipment and vehicles under or near overhead lines, conductive materials, portable ladders and housekeeping duties around live electrical sources.

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About the Author

Heidi Cardenas specializes in human resources, business and personal finance, small-business advice, home and garden and home improvement. Her professional background includes human resources and business administration, technical writing and corporate communications. She has studied horticulture and business administration, and enjoys guest blogging for publications including Herb Companion Magazine, Natural Home Living Magazine, and Mother Earth Living.