Falls are consistently one of the leading causes of unintentional injury that happen globally each year. In the United States, 43% of unintentional fatal falls have involved a ladder.
1 out of every 5 injuries that involves a fall occurs because of a ladder being used to complete a specific job responsibility. In the field of construction, over 80% of falls are attributed to the use of a ladder.
Choosing the right ladder for your job is the first step toward a safer user experience. You must think about the task that must be completed. You’ll need to know how much weight the ladder will handle. Then you’ll need to know if your ladder is appropriately rated for the work you’re completing.
An indoor-only ladder, for example, should not be used for outdoor tasks.
Once you’ve selected the correct ladder, you’ll want to implement the following ladder safety rules to prevent an unintended injury.
Basics of Ladder Safety
1. Always inspect the ladder.
Make sure that you always inspect a ladder for damage before using it. You’ll want to look for corrosion, cracks, and deformities in the ladder. Carefully look at the rivets or bolts to ensure they are secure. If the ladder does not pass your visual inspection, then make sure it is properly tagged, so it can be removed from service.
2. Physically inspect the feet of the ladder.
Grasp the feet of the ladder to make sure they are properly connected to the frame. The ladder should come equipped with a slip-resistant pad on each foot to provide greater stability. If the feet or lose or the pads have worn down, these features must be repaired or replaced before the ladder is used once again.
3. Know your environment.
You should be using a ladder constructed of fiberglass if you will be working around any type of electricity. Never take chances with this work. If you’re unsure about the presence of electricity, then always use a fiberglass ladder.
4. Prepare your work location.
The location you place your ladder should have level footing with a firmness in the ground. There should also be rigid supports available at the top of the ladder. Only use a ladder angle that is recommended by the manufacturer. Whenever possible, use a spotter to help you use the ladder safely.
5. Always use 3 points of contact.
When you climb a ladder, you should always have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, on it at all times. Having fewer points of contact increases the risk of an accident occurring. If you are carrying a load up or down the ladder, this rule still applies. Your load should never create a balancing issue for you or limit your points of contact with the ladder.
6. Do not stand on the top of a ladder.
You’re not in the WWE. Standing on the top of a ladder, even if it is a stepladder in a firm position, increases the risk of an accident or an injury. Even if you are using stepladders as a makeshift scaffold, the board placement should go through lower rungs of the ladder instead of being placed on the top of the ladders.
7. Avoid making any sudden movements.
When you are on a ladder, you should focus on moving up or down the ladder in a vertical motion. If you are working from a ladder, then focus on the job duties you must complete. There should never be sudden movements, such as leaning, stretching, or pulling, that could cause a balancing issue with the ladder.
8. Do not place the ladder near a traffic area.
When working with a ladder, it should never be placed near an exit door. You will want to avoid any areas of heavy traffic, pedestrian or vehicle, to avoid an accident as well. If there is a chance that someone could run into your ladder while using it, then try to find a new location to place your ladder.
How to Climb a Ladder Safely
When climbing a ladder, it is important to consider the environmental conditions before you start working. You should never use an extension ladder during potentially unsafe weather conditions. If it is windy or the ground is soft because of recent rain, it may be safer to work on the project at a later time.
If bad weather comes in while you are working, descend the ladder immediately and wait for the weather to pass.
You’ll want to clean your ladder after each use to prevent dangerous buildups of dirt or debris.
Then you will want to consider these practical tips to improve personal safety as you climb the ladder.
- Always mount or dismount your ladder from the front. Never use the side of the ladder for this purpose.
- Ensure you have 3 feet of clearance above the platform or roof you are climbing to reach.
- When standing on a ladder for work purposes, you’ll want to stand on the third rung from the top at the highest point.
- If you must climb a ladder with tools, then use a tool belt. Your hands should be free of items at all times.
- Wear shoes that are equipped with a slip-resistant sole.
- Make sure that only one person is using the ladder at any one time.
By take a careful approach to ladder safety, many of the accidents and injuries which occur while using this tool can be prevented.
Are You Ready to Focus on Ladder Safety?
OSHA publishes a series of ladder-use regulations which must be reviewed on a regular basis for workplace compliance. Content on the internet is no substitute for a review of the actual policies, procedures, or regulations that are required in the workplace.
Many of the basics of ladder safety use a foundation of common sense. If you are an employer using a ladder, you may be required by law to train your workers on how to safely use them. Always use the state or national standards which apply to your workplace for that training.
A good ladder will take your work to new heights. Manage that relationship with care and you’ll be able to get your work done.