Canadian Rental Service

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What Went Hong: Ladder safety


November 24, 2021
By James Hong

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Let’s have a look at the safety requirements for rental equipment ladders.

Ensuring the equipment has been maintained and understanding the responsibilities of the renter and renting company should be pretty straightforward; however, like most things, there are circumstances that don’t quite fit the mould.

Equipment rental companies must abide by very strict adherences to regulations, maintenance and safety requirements and it is rare to find any circumstances where that isn’t the case. The following anecdote highlights how circumstances are not always straightforward in every day working life.

A contractor has been sent to a job to change the florescent bulbs in a building. No problem, right? In this story, nothing could be further from the truth. They arrive to find the space that needs all new bulbs is a gym with 24-foot ceilings. Not only that, the gym can’t be shut down during the job. Not only that, they don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the ceiling. Not only that, they need the ladder today. You get the picture.

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They scramble to find a ladder that will work under the guidelines for the four-to-one base distance, side rails and three-point contact rules. Oops, the conditions for the job won’t work with an extension ladder and the budget doesn’t allow for a scissor lift or other more expensive options. Now the only option is to look for a tall step ladder. This is where you, the rental store owner come in: the contractor finds the last tall stepladder in the region at your store and hoofs it over there to rent.

Oops again! The OHS stepladder height restriction is 20 feet and they need a ladder exceeding 20 feet to safely reach the receptacles, so they ask you to have a look around to try and find another option. You come back with good news. You found an older wooden stepladder higher than 20 feet from back before the 20 foot restriction was put in place. 

There are rules regarding the user/renter and rental company responsibilities. Equipment rental safety responsibilities as outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act under the Duties of Suppliers (s.31). 

Duties of suppliers under the Act are as follows:

31 (1) Every person who supplies any machine, device, tool or equipment under any rental, leasing or similar arrangement for use in or about a workplace shall ensure,

(a)  that the machine, device, tool or equipment is in good condition;

(b)  that the machine, device, tool or equipment complies with this Act and the regulations; and

(c)  if it is the person’s responsibility under the rental, leasing or similar arrangement to do so, that the machine, device, tool or equipment is maintained in good condition.

The Canadian Standards Association sets out the following height restrictions under “Z11-12, Step Ladder Standards.” For construction and industrial use, special duty with a load rating of 375 pounds – 12 feet. Extra heavy duty with a load rating of 300 pounds – 20 feet. Heavy-duty with a load rating of 250 pounds – 20 feet. For tradesmen and farm use, medium-duty with a load rating of 225 pounds – 12 feet. And for household use, light duty with load rating of 200 pounds – 6.5 feet.

But what about the height restriction? If you rented them the ladder, who is responsible for the height restriction? The supplier is responsible for adhering to the OHS act for all equipment restrictions and use. The user is responsible for adhering to the proper limitations and use of equipment. Not understanding those rules does not exempt the renter from the responsibilities. Checking your rental equipment with a checklist is the accurate way to determine whether it meets safety requirements. A “check before” is also part of rental agreements to ensure the equipment is brought back in the condition it was rented in. 

Using any ladder, whether rented or not, without the proper training and understanding of how to properly check for safety is a very bad decision and can lead to serious injury.   


James Hong is chief of OHS for the construction industry.