Ladder Safety 101
Ladder safety is a critical part of height safety.
We use them every day. From housework to job sites, ladders are an essential piece of equipment.
Having been in use for hundreds of years, in one form or another, we should be well aware of the dangers inherent in their use.
However, they are still a potential hazard. Ladder safety and height-related safety issues are responsible for injuries and fatalities on a daily basis.
Every year, there are thousands of incidents involving ladders.
The good news? Many of them are preventable. The key is proper ladder safety. No matter how many years of experience you have, brushing up on ladder safety can’t hurt.
The Dangers of Using a Ladder
As we noted in a previous blog about OSHA violations, OSHA sees height-related violations as the biggest problem on worksites. Ladders specifically were listed as seventh overall.
In 2016 alone, they accounted for 2,625 official violations, as noted in Safety and Health Magazine. While slightly down from 2,732 reported violations in 2015, this is still much higher than it should be, especially when you consider how preventable ladder injuries often are.
Unfortunately, talking about potential ladder violations with employees does not always convey the impact and importance of ladder safety.
In 2015 the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that over 20,000 non-fatal injuries could be attributed to ladder-related incidents.
Even worse, there were over 150 worker fatalities due to ladder-related incidents.
That is over 150 families losing a loved one in accidents that are generally preventable. Again, practicing ladder safety should not be overlooked.
Doing Your Part to Promote Ladder Safety
So, what can you do to reduce the potential for ladder injuries? While it does not replace the need for proper safety training, use this list as a refresher.
Along with inspecting your ladders on a regular basis (and before each use), the following measures should always be taken when using a ladder:
- Check the general worthiness of the ladder, as well as specific areas on site (rungs should be flat, skid-resistant).
- All ladders should be free of oil, grease, wet paint, and other potential slip hazards.
- Wood ladders should not be coated in any opaque varnishes.
- Any supporting bracers for the rungs should be unbent and attached properly.
- Regularly dispose of and replace old, damaged, or obsolete ladders.
- Only use a ladder in the manner for which it was designed.
- Choose the appropriate ladder for the task at hand, taking into account the style, height, duty rating, and material.
- Check the feet of the ladder for slip-resistant contact surfaces.
Always ensure the feet flex and work properly before you, an employee or co-worker use it.
Moving on to the next part of our list of ladder safety tips:
- Do not place the ladder where fluids or potential spills could cause the feet to lose traction.
- Make sure the ladder is set on firm, level footing (if it is an extension ladder, ensure there is rigid support for the top).
- Make sure the ladder is positioned out of the way of pedestrians that could bump into it.
In the world today – where many walk with their heads down, glued to their smartphones – the above ladder safety tip may seem obvious, but cannot be understated.
- Check for electrical hazards and overhead power lines prior to handling a ladder.
- If you must work near exposed power lines or energized electrical equipment, only use fiberglass ladders.
- Always maintain three points of contact on the ladder.
- Never use the top of a stepladder as a step.
- Don’t climb a closed stepladder.
- Don’t climb up the back of a stepladder.
- Don’t place the base of the extension ladder too close or far from the base of the structure you are using it on.
- Stay centered on the ladder – keeping your belt buckle between the vertical rails
To maintain optimal ladder safety, avoid leaning away from the ladder or making sudden movements.
- Understand the maximum load rating of the ladder you are using, and do not exceed it.
- Make sure that you and your employees review the Basic Ladder Safety rules suggested by the American Ladder Institute.
- Print out the OSHA Quick Card for ladder safety and post it on the job site trailer where it can easily be viewed by all.
Reduced response times increase the chances of a successful rescue and recovery, for those times where ladder safety isn’t adhered to,
Preventing ladder injuries should be simple and straightforward, but unfortunately, ladder safety is often disregarded.
Site safety is something that everyone contributes to. We know that workers may scoff at the idea of ladder training, as many of them have likely used ladders for decades. However, this is not an excuse to avoid it altogether.
When you consider the potential hazards, tt is worth having an occasional sit-down regarding ladder safety. Even the most experienced users still have accidents.
Have you ever been injured on a ladder?
Notice any obvious measures left out of this article?