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Do you need to reach something higher than chest/eye level? Do you need a ladder? Do you know how to choose the correct one suited for the task at hand? These preliminary questions were brought up in a previous article I wrote on the subject of ladder safety where I covered some basic information. But seeing as falls from ladders still make up nearly a third of the deaths in the construction industry every year, this article today will cover how to avoid injuries by following some ladder safety tips, ladder "do's & don'ts", and some requirements for training.
Three simple steps to prevent falls:
Plan. Provide. Train.
Deaths resulting from ladder falls are preventable, falls from ladders can be avoided and many lives can be saved each year simply by following safe work practices. Specifically, falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. As said before, these are preventable. A ladder is a tool just like any other, it is made as safe as possible and if used within the scope of its instructions, no harm should befall you. Be sure to take the time to properly understand how to select, set up, and move about on a ladder safely with these safety tips.
- Read and follow all labels or markings found on the ladder.
- Always inspect the ladder prior to using it.
- If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
- Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
- Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
- If you intend to work on a less than stable and level surface, be sure to secure the ladder (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
- The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
- Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
- The ladder’s load rating includes all of the weight it is supporting.
- This includes yourself and the weight of any tools or equipment.
DO's and DON'Ts of Safe Ladder Use:
DO: Maintain a 3-point contact (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) when climbing/descending a ladder.
DO: Face the ladder when climbing up or descending.
DO: Keep the body inside the side rails.
DO: Use extra care when getting on or off the ladder at the top or bottom. Avoid tipping the ladder over sideways or causing the ladder base to slide out.
DO: Carry tools in a tool belt or raise tools up using a hand line. Never carry tools in your hands while climbing up/down a ladder.
DO: Extend the top of the ladder three feet above the landing.
DO: Keep ladders free of any slippery materials.
DON'T: Use a ladder on soft ground or unstable footing.
DON'T: Exceed the ladder’s maximum load rating.
DON'T: Tie two ladders together to make them longer.
DON'T: Ignore nearby overhead power lines.
DON'T: Move or shift a ladder with a person or equipment on the ladder.
DON'T: Lean out beyond the ladder’s side rails.
DON'T: Use an extension ladder horizontally like a platform.
DON'T: Place a ladder on boxes, barrels, or unstable bases.
Check, Maintain and Store Ladders Well
Before using a ladder, check it carefully to ensure there are no visible defects and that it is in good working condition. Check the ladder according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Maintain and store the ladder according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Employers must train all employees to recognize hazards related to ladders and stairways, and instruct them to minimize these hazards. For example, employers must ensure that each employee is trained by a competent person in the following areas, as applicable:
- Nature of fall hazards in the work area;
- Correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, and disassembling the fall protection systems to be used;
- Proper construction, use, placement and care in handling of all stairways and ladders; and
- Maximum intended load-carrying capacities of ladders used.
Note: Employers must retrain each employee as necessary to maintain their understanding and knowledge on the safe use and construction of ladders and stairs.
"Falls are the leading cause of death in construction and every year, falls from ladders make up nearly a third of those deaths. These deaths are preventable. Falls from ladders can be prevented and lives can be saved by following safe work practices."
Do I Need a Ladder?
In order to answer this simple question, first you must ask yourself the following questions (as indicated by OSHA):
- Will I have to hold heavy items while on the ladder?
- Is the elevated area high enough that it would require a long ladder that can be unstable?
- Will I be working from this height for a long time?
- Do I have to stand on the ladder sideways in order to do this work?
According to OSHA, if the answer to any of these questions is a "Yes," then you may want to revisit the idea and consider using something other than a ladder (scissor lift, scaffolding, etc.)
Choosing the Right Ladder for the Job
- Ensure the ladder is high enough for you to reach your work area without having to stand on the top rung.
- When using ladders to access another level, secure and extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the landing point to provide a safe handhold.
- The base of the ladder should be secured.
- Wear proper footwear
- Place the ladder on stable and level ground. DO NOT place it on an uneven surface.
- Ensure that the ladder is fully extended before starting work.
- Prevent passersby from walking under or near ladders in use by using barriers or getting your coworker to act as a lookout.
- Do not work on the top rung of the ladder.
- Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times.
- Do not carry any tools or materials in your hands when climbing a ladder.
- Do not lean away from the ladder to carry out your task. Always keep your weight centered between the side rails.
- Do not use ladders near doorways. If you need to use a ladder near a doorway, make sure that the door is locked.
- is faulty.
- is bent.
- is missing a step.
- has spreader bars that do not have a locking device or mechanism.