A growing business brings with it stressors of every caliber, forcing you to divide your attention accordingly, from your team members and equipment to insurance and billing. Keeping track of the minor, intricate details can become difficult, and as time passes, those “minor” to-dos can evolve into mountainous dilemmas, causing you even more stress and money. Thanks to our experts in the field, inspecting your equipment doesn’t have to fall to the back burner.

Ideally, all equipment should be inspected before each and every use, but let’s face it, sometimes you just jump in and get the job done. However, if your equipment is not inspected consistently, it can do more harm than good in the long run. As Builders Mutual’s risk management consultant Dave Barker points out, “Equipment doesn’t always function the way we expect it to, but it will function the way we inspect it.”

There’s no better time than now to do a full review. So, stop what you’re doing, head to your trailer or storage unit, and see what needs to be replaced. It may take a moment, but it may very well save a life or prevent an injury. You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but these FAQs will help get you started.


Q: How do I extend the lifespan of both my fiberglass and aluminum ladders?

A: It is best practice to protect them from outside elements and keep them stored in cool, low-humidity areas to prolong their life. However, most of the time ladders are realistically stored on vehicles equipped with ladder racks.

The American Ladder Institute explains that focusing on support points when transporting ladders will help prevent damage: “Overhang of the ladders beyond the support points of the rack should be minimized. The support points should be constructed of material such as wood or rubber-covered pipe to minimize the effects of vibration, chafing and road shock. Securing the ladder to each support point will greatly reduce the damaging effects of road shock.”

Overhanging ladders on the top of a vehicle, such as 40-foot ladders, can overhang to the extent that they are struck by larger vehicles moving through a parking lot or the driver of the vehicle might strike a wall when pulling into a parking space or backing into it.  These ladders should be inspected prior to leaving the contractors yard to help assure that they are in good condition when the crew reaches the job-site.

Q: What are common signs of wear and tear?

A: If you’re not properly storing your ladders, signs of corrosion will reveal themselves quickly – or they could remain hidden. Fiberglass ladders tend to fade from a bright orange to pink due to overexposure to the sun. Meanwhile, aluminum ladders don’t tend to rust, making it harder to detect excessive weathering.  Inspect areas where the rungs meet and penetrate through the side rails.  Look for cracks due to use, missing components such as the ladder feet, extension rope, etc.  Tag and remove damaged ladders from service.

Q: Should I have my ladder inspected?

A: Absolutely. It’s important to inspect for broken or damaged components. A thorough pre-inspection is the best way to avoid job-site injury, and an annual inspection never hurts. Be sure to review everything from the support brackets to the side rails and rungs to the feet. Contact the manufacturer for repair or replacement options. Typically, with the exception of replacing the feet, damaged components mean the same thing: time to toss it.  Companies like Batavia Services offer a range of ladder inspection and repair services including replacing the ladder feet and extension ropes, replacing the manufacturer labels on the ladders, and recoating fiberglass to help extend the life of the side rails.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Q: Will my used PPE protect my workers the same as new or good condition products?

A: No. Personal protective equipment will protect you only if you keep it in good condition.

Q: What about minor scratches on safety glasses? My workers can still see, so they’re OK, right?

A: Wrong. Excessively scratched safety glasses impair vision. Your worker may be able to see now, but in a few months, not so much. Scratches on the lenses of the safety glasses may also lead to employees not wearing them when doing detail work.  This increases the potential for eye injuries on the job. So, if you find a pair with scratches or cracks, toss it and buy a new pair. Their design deflects ricocheting nails and other debris, but only when they’re intact.

Do hard hats expire?

A: Yes. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations, but typically a hard hat’s shelf life is three years – and only one year for the webbing of the inner harness. Have yours expired? If so, replace them.

Fall Protection Equipment

Q: Where is the best place to store fall protection kits?

A: Fall protection equipment can be stored in the bags or buckets in which it was originally purchased.  If equipment is damp or wet from perspiration or rain, store it hanging in a dry area.

Q: How do I ensure that fall protection equipment is in good working condition?

A: Inspect each piece of the equipment prior to every 8-hour work shift. The harness, rope, and shock-absorbing lanyard should be free of wear and fraying.  Look for tears, burns, holes or stray coatings on the webbing.  Ensure metal components including the buckles, carabineer and locking snap hook are not rusted or deformed and fall indicators are not torn.  Review the date on the harness and lanyard tags to see if they should be replaced.  Also, be sure that your fall protection equipment is sized for each individual employee to ensure proper fit.

Q: Can fall protection equipment previously used in a fall be reused?

A:  No.  Once a fall occurs, the harness and lanyard should be removed from service and replaced.  The attachment point should also be inspected and most likely removed and replaced.

Extension Cords

Q: How do I inspect my extension cords?

A: Extension cord maintenance is important as this is one of the top 20 OSHA citations.  Identify cracked, frayed, or worn cords and check the duty rating to ensure the cord is designed for hard or extra hard usage. The cords should have the markings S, SE, SO, or ST.  Light duty, or residential type cords, should not be used as they do not hold up to the daily rigors of the job-site.  Look for missing ground pins and inspect around the plug for insulation pulled away from the plug ends due to pulling on the cords.  Extension cords with breaks in them should not be repaired, they should be cut in half and thrown away.  Always remember to remove the power source before inspecting or repairing extension cords!

Power Tools

Q: How do I inspect my power tools?

A: Power tools should be kept clean and inspected daily before use. Similarly to inspecting your extension cords, you’ll want to take a look at your power tools’ cords and identify any of the same hazards. Then, check for cracks in the housing (the plastic casing). For saws, sharpen or replace the blades every six months – or sooner if you notice dulled teeth. An inadequately sharpened saw blade will lead to the employee using more force to get the blade to cut.  The saw could jump and lead to severe cuts, lacerations, or amputation.

Q: How often do I clean, and with what?

A: All tools and equipment need to be cleaned regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically a dry brush does the trick, so keep one in your tool box.

Content reviewed and updated 10-2021.