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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Millions of workers climb ladders each and every day to access their respective work areas in applications that range from satellite towers to crane towers to theatre productions. And a few of these workers include the team members at ESG who climb tens of thousands of feet of ladders every year.

Climbing ladders is exhausting.

Did you know that climbing ladders with equipment burns an incredible 1,024 calories per hour for a 205 pound person? By comparison, walking up stairs with a 50 pound weight burns fewer calories, as does boxing or most other aerobic activities!

The act of pulling your entire body weight vertically against gravity is very taxing and it is very important to take this into consideration when climbing a ladder.

If a tired worker attempts to climb a ladder, there is a high possibility that a fall might occur. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 164,000 emergency room visits and 300 deaths in the US each year from falls from ladders.

Sadly enough, in the past decade alone, the number of falls from a ladder that result in a fatality have nearly tripled. And falling from ladders is currently the leading cause of death at construction sites in the United States.

Workers should always be protected while climbing any ladder.

Simply complying with OSHA regulations is not enough to prevent workers from experiencing a fall while working on a ladder.

For example, let us consider OSHA regulations into retrospect to a fixed ladder system. As long as there is a cage (with a minimum opening of no less than 27 inches in width), a fixed ladder systems between 20 and 30 feet are considered safe for worker climbing.

But what do you think happens when a worker falls while climbing a ladder with a cage? Based on experience, we at ESG can tell you that the result is not good.

It is important to go above and beyond when it comes to improving ladder safety for your workers by implementing two or three additional safety measures for a fixed ladder. For instance, that same fixed ladder system that has a cage can also have a ladder safety device installed for additional protection.

Implementing ladder safety devices significantly reduce the odds of injury in the event of a ladder fall by providing means to quickly arrest workers in the event of a fall as opposed to the fall being stopped by the worker’s body striking against the surrounding steel cage.

Invest in additional ladder safety devices to best protect your workers.

Options for ladder safety devices include an (1) overhead self-retracting lifeline system or (2) a ladder cable or rail system that is attached to with a full body harness, short lanyard, and frontal D-ring.

An overhead system would require a single point anchor rated for 5,000 pounds to be attached to the existing building structure. This single point anchor would coordinate with a self-retracting lifeline so that the cable can directly connect to the climbing worker without contacting any surface that could cut or abrade the safety line.

In selecting the best self-retracting lifeline to use for an overhead system, be sure to select one that has a cable long enough to reach the worker at the surface below and make sure the safety line is composed of a material (cable, coated cable, webbing, etc) that is suitable for the surrounding work environment.

To safely inspect this system, the worker can fully extend the equipment, visually inspect the block of the self-retracting lifeline, and manually lock the cable to ensure functionality before each and every use.

Alternatively, you could install a ladder cable or rail system that runs vertically with the ladder by attaching to the ladder rungs. A cable system utilizes cable rope grabs that require manual operation on behalf of the worker where as a rail system utilizes a rail trolley that does not require any sort of manual operation. Both systems are designed to connect to the worker’s frontal d-ring on their full body harness with a short lanyard.

The key item to consider when deciding to implement a cable or rail ladder safety system is that the worker needs to be able to get from the ladder to the landing platform safely before detaching from the system. This means that the system may need to extend beyond the ladder, otherwise, additional fall protection systems may need to be implemented.

Whether or not a ladder has a cage, implementing additional ladder safety devices like those I have listed above will best improve worker safety on your job site. And, if you have any more questions on ladder safety, please feel free to reach out to me via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 1.800.466.6385.