Ladder Safety

Hawker Posted by Tonya Hawker

Falls from ladders are a leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control statistics published in 2014, 43% of fatal falls in the last decade involved ladders.  Additionally, ladder use contributed to 20% of non-fatal injuries among the nation’s workers.  It’s not surprising to learn that the leading occupation impacted by ladder falls is construction.  However, the industry following close behind is “Installation, Maintenance and Repair” operations. 

Nearly every business in America includes some level of “Installation, Maintenance or Repair” activity in order to ensure productive and efficient processes.  Whether your industry is Healthcare, Hospitality, Manufacturing, or Construction--- Everyone uses ladders! 

To prevent ladder use injuries, employers should consider the following safe-use practices:

Ladder Condition

Inspect the ladder before each use and include ladders in general site safety inspection routines.  Any damaged ladders should be tagged and removed from service immediately.

  • Are all rungs and steps intact and in good condition?
  • Are steps clean and free of grease/oil?
  • Are support braces, rivets, bolts, and screws in place and secured?
  • Are sharp edges or splinters removed?
  • Are ropes on extension ladders in good condition (no fraying)?
  • Are spreaders and other locking devices in good condition and adequately secured?
  • Are safety feet in place?

Ladder Selection

Ladders come in all shapes and sizes, and different work environments require certain ladder types.  Choose the right ladder for the job! 

Ladder Length

  • Use stepladders for heights up to 20 feet.
  • Use one-section ladders for heights up to 30 feet.
  • Use an extension ladder for heights up to 60 feet. (sections must have overlap)

Ladder Rating- ratings are based on weight capacity (worker + equipment)

  • Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty) = 375 lbs
  • Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty)= 300 lbs
  • Type I (Heavy Duty)= 250 lbs
  • Type II (Medium Duty)= 225 lbs
  • Type III (Light Duty)= 200 lbs (not recommended)
  • Label must always be attached to ladder


  • Don’t use a metal ladder near live electric wires or in corrosive environments.
  • Place the ladder on firm level surface.
  • Keep area surrounding ladder clear of trash, debris, tools, equipment.

Ladder Set-up

  • Extend a straight ladder three feet above the top support.
  • Anchor the top of the ladder to prevent displacement.
  • Secure the ladder footing or have someone hold the ladder secure.
  • Don’t rest a ladder on a window or in a door way.
  • Angle straight ladders at a 4:1 slope (distance from bottom to wall= ¼ the ladder’s working length)
  • Position an extension ladder before extending it.
  • Never use a step ladder (self-supporting ladder) as a straight ladder. Always fully open a step ladder.

Ladder Usage

  • DON’T stand on boxes, chairs or anything else. If you don’t have a ladder, get one.
  • Wear clean, slip resistant shoes.
  • Only allow one person on ladder at a time.
  • Always face ladder when climbing up or down.
  • Always keep three points of contact with the ladder.
  • Carry tools up on a rope or use a tool belt (don’t carry tools in your hands).
  • Never use multiple ladders at the same time, or in conjunction with each other.
  • Keep your body centered on the ladder (keep belt buckle between side rails).
  • Don’t move a ladder while standing on it.

Ladder injuries are preventable.  Human error is the leading cause of ladder injuries.  If you plan ahead, use the right ladder for the job, and train workers to use ladders safely these injuries can be prevented.  For more information on ladder safety, check out these resources from OSHA, Washington State DOL Ladder Safety Guide, Ask This Old House, and the NIOSH Ladder Safety App

  Ladder safety

It’s Road Construction Season Once Again

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

While many areas of the country experience road construction year-round, summer generally means an uptick in highway projects.  Summer also brings an increase in traffic as people head out on vacations.  This is especially true this year with the lowest July gas prices since 2005.  Combined increases in both traffic and construction poses obvious challenges for both motorists and construction crews.

Kids Safety

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2,054 workplace fatalities in 2015 involving transportation (42% of all workplace fatalities in 2015).  Roadway incidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians struck by vehicles accounted for 1,553 of those fatalities, and 130 of those fatalities occurred at road construction sites.  Total fatalities in work zones, including pedestrians and motorists not at work, totaled 700.  Needless to say, more focus is needed in an industry where workers on foot are intentionally placed in close proximity to moving traffic.


Each year speeding is found to be the most common cause of traffic crashes.  Since nearly half of roadway fatalities result from employees being struck by moving vehicles a reasonable recommendation is to slow down!   Highway work zones often have reduced speed limits posted, and many states double the fine amount for exceeding those limits.  Motorists must be more vigilant when approaching construction sites.  Expect workers and heavy equipment to be moving around the site frequently and adjust speed accordingly.  Driving more conservatively will get you to your destination, and avoid the frustration and increased risk of a crash that comes with driving faster.  By the way, it will also save money in fuel and car

Following flagging personnel direction is also critical for everyone’s safety.  Flaggers have an important role and distracted or impatient motorists make the job much more difficult and hazardous.  Look for these workers along the roadway and expect stop and go traffic.  Leave a safe following distance between vehicles and avoid other distractions. 

Employers should be setting up work zones in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and any applicable state supplements, or state MUTCD publications as applicable.  Ensuring flaggers are properly trained and equipped is also vital to safe operations.  Flaggers should never assume that motorists see them.  In fact, flaggers should assume that passing motorists don’t see them.  Stay out of the traffic lane and always be alert for oncoming traffic and never turn your back to oncoming vehicles.    

More information can be found from OSHA on their Highway Work Zones and Signs, Signals, and Barricades webpage, the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  By working together this summer we can all enjoy the great outdoors and family vacations, and keep our road workers safe as they build and maintain our roadways.  Take your time, be courteous and patient, drive sober and well rested, and we’ll all Arrive Alive.



Load Limits for Structurally Supported Surfaces

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

The last line of the lyrical refrain in the 1968 hit song “The Weight” by Canadian-American rock group The Band reads, “You put the load right on me.”  In the context of a work environment with a mezzanine storage platform, this verse conjures up a mental picture of disaster for anyone who might happen to be underneath the platform if it were to suddenly collapse.  OSHA addresses this load limit concern in their recently updated Walking-Working Surfaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.22, general requirements, as follows:

    1910.22(b) Loads. The employer must ensure that each walking-working surface can support the maximum intended load for that surface.

It’s important to note the previous general industry rule, 1910.22(d), required that “a plate of approved design indicating the floor load capacity must be posted.”  In a letter of interpretation, OSHA states, “There is no longer a requirement for a floor loading sign; however, the employer must ensure that employees involved in warehousing or storage activities know the intended load limits. This applies to ‘structurally supported surfaces.’”  

The general requirements of the standard also cover inspection, maintenance, and repair with the employer to ensure:

  • Walking-working surfaces are inspected, regularly and as necessary, and maintained in a safe condition;
  • Hazardous conditions on walking-working surfaces are corrected or repaired before an employee uses the walking-working surface again. If the correction or repair cannot be made immediately, the hazard must be guarded to prevent employees from using the walking-working surface until the hazard is corrected or repaired; and
  • When any correction or repair involves the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person performs or supervises the correction or repair.

While there are several online resources for calculating floor load capacity, it is advisable to have a professional engineer calculate the maximum intended load.  In a manner of speaking, maintaining the structural integrity of a storage platform along with ensuring its maximum load capacity is not exceeded is intended to ensure “the last waltz” doesn’t happen to an employee working on or under the supported structure.

MEMIC policyholders have access to a General Industry Self Inspection Checklist in the Safety Director Resource Library.  



Confined Spaces in Construction: The "Whole" Story (Cont.)

Stephen Badger 2014 Posted by Stephen Badger, CSP, OSHT

OSHA’s New Confined Space Regulations (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1 of this three-part series on Confined Spaces in Construction identified the existing confined space standard in Construction (29 CFR 1926.21(b) and the newly adopted Final Rule, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA, that goes into effect on August 3, 2015. 

Part 2 reviewed a few of the key definitions and concepts related to the new standard.

Part 3 of this series examines some of the key requirements for employers under the new confined space regulations:

  • Before starting work a contractor must have a competent person identify confined spaces in which its employees may work. The competent person must evaluate the hazards of that space and conduct air testing as necessary. In addition, the employer must post warning signs and prevent unauthorized employees from entering those spaces. (29 CFR 1926.1203(a-c).
  • An employer must ensure through a written certification process that it is safe to remove a cover from a confined space and then block the entrance to ensure no one can enter the space before it is deemed safe. The confined space must be tested for oxygen, flammable gases and potential toxic air contaminants. If the air within the space does not meet minimum standards no one can enter the space until it is deemed safe. If a hazard is detected during entry the employer must ensure that employees can exit in a safe manner. (29 CFR 1926.1203(e)(2)(i – ix).
  • Before entering any confined space, the controlling contractor must obtain all information regarding the hazards of that space from the host employer. This information must then be given to each employer that has to enter that space. After completing the entry process, each employer must relay all related information and hazards encountered to the controlling contractor. (1926.1203(h)(1-5).
  • The employer must develop a written confined space program that addresses (but is not limited to) the identification of confined spaces, testing procedures, entry procedures, employee training, and emergency rescue. (29 CFR 1926.1204(a-n)

For more information on confined spaces in construction, MEMIC customers are welcome to attend our free webinar entitled “Confined Spaces: The Whole Story” on August 12, 2015.

Confined Spaces in Construction

Confined Spaces in Construction: The "Whole" Story (Cont.)

Stephen Badger 2014 Posted by Stephen Badger, CSP, OSHT

OSHA's New Confined Space Regulations (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1 of this Three Part Series on Confined Spaces in Construction identified the existing confined space standard in Construction (29 CFR 1926.21(b) and the newly adopted Final Rule 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA that goes into effect in August 2015. This installment reviews a few of the key definitions and concepts related to the new standard.

In the definition section of the Final Rule, OSHA identifies a competent person as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” While the concept of a competent person is not new within the OSHA standards, this is the first time it has been included in any of the confined space standards.

OSHA defines a controlling contractor as “the employer that has overall responsibility for construction at the worksite. Note: If the controlling contractor owns or manages the property, then it is both a controlling employer and a host employer.”2 The term controlling contractor isn’t new to the multi-employer worksite citation process or 29 CFR 1926 Subpart R but this “entity” will be responsible for certain activities before and during mobilization to a worksite.

The definition of host employer is important to facility owners/operators as this entity has the responsibility of notifying contractors about the hazards within their confined spaces. OSHA’s definition and note follows: “Host employer means the employer that owns or manages the property where the construction work is taking place. Note: If the owner of the property on which the construction activity occurs has contracted with an entity for the general management of that property, and has transferred to that entity the information specified in §1203(h)(1), OSHA will treat the contracted management entity as the host employer for as long as that entity manages the property. Otherwise, OSHA will treat the owner of the property as the host employer. In no case will there be more than one host employer.”3

Part 3 of this series will explore key sections of the Final Rule and how they will affect employees, employers and facility owners.






Confined Spaces in Construction: The "Whole" Story

Stephen Badger 2014 Posted by Stephen Badger, CSP, OHST

OSHA’s New Confined Space Regulations (Part 1 of 3)

For years, many of us in the Construction field have heard the same old excuses from contractors working unsafely in confined spaces. Statements like “We don’t have a confined space standard in Construction”, have been heard countless times by safety consultants and Compliance Officers alike.

In reality, OSHA has had confined space rules for many years that have been all but overlooked because it consisted of just two sentences. 29 CFR 1926.21 (b)(i) requires that “All employees required to enter confined or enclosed spaces shall be instructed as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective and emergency equipment required. The employer shall comply with any specific regulations that apply to work in dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.”

While underwhelming in details, the regulation does require construction employers to determine what hazards might be lurking in a confined space and instruct their employees on how to recognize and avoid these hazards. Because of this lack of detail many contractors chose to adopt the General Industry standard for confined spaces (29CFR1910.146) as this has been considered “best practices” for entering these spaces.

On May 1, 2015 OSHA announced the Final Rule for Confined Spaces in Construction (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA).1 In a prepared statement Dr. David Michaels (Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational safety and Health) stated that it is expected that nearly 800 serious injuries a year will be prevented in confined spaces by the new rule and the standard will be effective on August 3, 2015.2

In the next two installments we will look at some of the new definitions associated with confined spaces and some of the new rules that contractors will be required to follow.




Combustible Dust: Good Housekeeping Practices Could Save Your Business

Luis Pieretti 2014 Posted by: Luis Pieretti, PhD, CIH, CSP

Good housekeeping practices not only help to maintain clean work areas, but in some cases, may prevent potential catastrophes.  In 2008, we were witnesses of the dangers of combustible dust with the explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Georgia where 14 employees were killed and 42 were injured. But this is not a new hazard.  The first recorded combustible dust explosion dates back to December 14, 1785 at a flour warehouse in Italy.  A worker was using a shovel to transfer flour and a lighted lamp to work by.(1)  All the necessary elements for a combustible dust explosion were present:

  • Heat: The lighted lamp and/or possibly electrostatic charges due to the dry season.
  • Fuel: Flour and other agricultural dust/products are  combustible dusts.
  • Dispersion: Flour was likely suspended in the air during the transfer.
  • Confinement: The warehouse structure  confined the cloud of suspended combustible dust. 
  • Oxygen

It’s not just agricultural products/dust that can be classified as combustible dust but also plastic dusts, chemical dusts, metal dusts and carbonaceous dusts.  Recent explosions relating to metal dust occurred in 2010 at a titanium plant in West Virginia killing 3 employees, and in 2011 at a metal powders facility in Tennessee where 5 employees were killed. In 2012, a combustible dust explosion occurred at an ink plant in New Jersey where 7 employees were injured.

As of October 2014, there is no OSHA standard addressing combustible dust, but it is a known occupational hazard in which a compliance officer can cite under Section 5(a)(1) under the OSH Act.  OSHA is, however, developing  a standard. It should be noted that it is at the early stages, still a long way to go before it becomes a law--if it survives the rulemaking process.

The National Fire Protection Association has published a series of standards for the prevention of fire and dust explosions and they can be viewed for free through the association’s website.  The series of standards include: 

  • NFPA 61: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities
  • NFPA 484: Standard for Combustible Metals
  • NFPA 654: Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
  • NFPA 655: Standard for Prevention of Sulfur Fires and Explosions
  • NFPA 664: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities

For more information about combustible dust and how it can be identified and controlled, visit the OSHA website or  The US Chemical Safety BoardMEMIC policyholders can watch a webinar on combustible dust at MEMIC Safety DirectorThe US Chemical Safety Board has developed videos detailing the causes of the explosions they have investigated including an educational video entitled, Combustible Dust: An Insidious Hazard:



(1) RK Eckhoff. (2003). Dust explosions in the process industries, Third Edition: Identification, Assessment and Control of Dust Hazards. Burlington, MA: Gulf Professional Publishing.



Tool Safety: Hand Held Circular Saws

Peter Koch 2014 Posted by Peter Koch

A hand held circular saw is one of the most common and potentially dangerous tools on the jobsite.   Ease of use and versatility of this saw are factors that drive decisions which put the operator at risk of injury.  It’s called a “skill” saw for a reason and not every operator has the necessary skill to safely produce quality work, in a timely manner. 

As one of the necessary “tools of the trade” it is critical that the operator has the skill and ability to use the saw correctly, ensuring their safety and the quality of the work.  So, to help maintain balance between the demands of quality, productivity and injury prevention review the following before you pick up a saw:


  • Make sure that you have read all safety materials that come with your saw.
  • Inspect the saw for serviceable condition.
  • Always wear safety glasses.
  • Check the blade guard; ensure it is working freely.
  • Ensure that the blade is proper for the material being cut.
  • Check the saw for proper blade installation and rotation.
  • Set the depth of the blade (while the saw is unplugged) so that the lowest tooth does not extend excessively beneath the wood.
  • Keep all cords clear of cutting area.
  • Use two hands to operate saw.
  • Mechanically secure stock being cut. 
  • Keep eyes on the saw while in use.
  • Remove nails, screws, fasteners, and other metal before cutting stock.
  • Let the saw come to rest before removing from the stock being cut.


  • Operate an unsafe tool or one that does not meet the manufacturer’s serviceable condition standards. 
  • Place your hand under the shoe or guard of the saw. 
  • Remove guard or prop open.
  • Hold retracting lower guard in the open position while cutting.
  • Rotate the saw up to change or check alignment while the saw is running. 
  • Force the saw in the material while cutting.
  • Carry the saw with a finger on the trigger switch. 
  • Overreach. Keep proper footing and balance. 
  • Support the work piece on your knee.  
  • Rip stock without securing the stock from movement

This is not a complete list.  Be sure to take a MEMIC Minute, go over the safety tips above, and be safe when you operate a circular saw.  For additional guidance check out the training resources from the Power Tool Institute.

Circular Saw power tool cut

Residential Construction Fall Protection

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

What relevance does an OSHA announcement about Construction in 2010 have in 2013?   Think fall protection. 

According to OSHA falls accounted for 259 out of 738 total deaths in construction for CY 2011 1992 through 2005, fatal falls in construction have only increased, even though in 1995, OSHA provided interim fall protection guidelines for residential construction that allowed contractors to develop non-conventional methods to protect workers from falls.

Given that the construction season is in full swing, the new residential fall protection requirements announced December 16, 2010 which replace the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction are being enforced as of March 15, 2013.

Under the requirements, workers engaged in residential construction six feet or more above lower levels are to be protected by “conventional fall protection methods”, such as restraint systems, guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems (PFAs), or scaffolds.  Fall plans and slide guards (roof brackets) are not considered conventional methods.

The delay between the announcement and enforcement has provided time for employers to conduct training and adopt the new standards.

In order to use unconventional fall protection methods builders must show that OSHA’s standard methods are infeasible or would create a greater hazard than unconventional methods.  When this is the case, the burden of proof falls to the employer who then must provide a written explanation of why the conventional fall protection systems are infeasible or pose a greater hazard.  This must be outlined in a site-specific fall protection plan.

The following are links to the Residential Construction Fall Protection standards and OSHA Q&A:

The bottom line is, unless they can be proved to be infeasible, (Infeasible - impossible to perform the work while using a conventional fall protection system, or that it is technologically impossible to use a conventional system), conventional methods must be used when the worker is or can reasonably be expected to be exposed to a fall hazard of 6ft or more.

Making Road Construction Safe for Everyone

Road construction projects and the summer season seem to run on the same schedule, often to the distress of many of us trying to go about our daily lives. Indeed, billions of dollars and millions of man-hours will be spent on road work in 2013, the bulk of it scheduled for the warmest months of the year.

While traffic delays may be frustrating, drivers must stay alert to the hazards inherent to road construction. “All work zones are dangerous, especially if you’re not paying attention or taking proper precautions,” said Rod Stanley, a Director of Loss Control and Safety for workers’ compensation insurer MEMIC. “Whenever you have workers interrupting the flow of traffic, and who are very near moving vehicles, there’s risk,” he continued, indicating that there are hundreds of fatal crashes in work zones each year.

Road construction is filled with moving parts, between flaggers, surrounding vehicles, and onsite workers. While it’s not possible to control all of these parts around you, you can approach any work zone with confidence by following these guidelines.

  • Be on the lookout for flaggers. Most road construction projects that alter the flow of traffic will use flaggers to direct vehicles safely. Typically located at the shoulder of a work site, flaggers should be easy to spot in their reflective gear. With 20 flaggers killed by motorists each year, though, it’s clear that drivers must be more vigilant about keeping watch for these workers.
  • Put down your cell phone. Mountains of data illustrate the dangers of using a mobile device while driving. Texting while driving, for instance, makes the likelihood of crashing 23 times higher, according to the US Department of Transportation. Circumstances can change at a moment’s notice in a construction zone – don’t compromise your reaction time with cell phone use.
  • Watch your speed. A car driving at 30 miles per hour will likely require over 100 feet to come to a complete stop. Driving more slowly will give you additional time to navigate confusing traffic patterns and react to necessary emergency stops.
  • Maintain a safe distance from workers and other motorists. Transportation incidents account for 40 percent of occupational fatalities in the United States. 70 percent of those are characterized by a motorist hitting a pedestrian worker. By allowing for plenty of space between yourself and others, whether they’re on foot or in a vehicle, you can create a buffer zone for any stops or quick alterations you may have to make.
  • Be courteous. Yes, road construction can be maddening, but flaggers and onsite workers are simply doing their job. Rushing angrily through detours, though, will only increase the likelihood of an accident.

 Road construction is unpredictable. Dangerous situations can seem to pop up out of nowhere. By allowing yourself plenty of space to react and limiting distractions, you can ensure a safer interaction with everyone on the road.