March is National Ladder Safety Month and an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about how to safely work around a common tool, found in almost every home and at many job sites. Often, ladder safety training can be inadequate because it is assumed that ladders are simple to use, compared to the more complex equipment such as cranes, forklifts and other power and handheld tools employees must use at construction sites. However, it is not only construction workers who use ladders on the job. Firefighters, building inspectors, electricians, painters, maintenance workers, power line installers and certain mechanics may be required to use a ladder for their daily tasks. Each year, too many people are injured or die as a result of unsafe work on or around ladders. Injuries caused by improper ladder use, falls from ladders and electrocution due to not using the correct type of ladder are preventable. Workers need to be educated and properly trained on the dangers that can arise when working on or around ladders for your job site to remain injury free.
Each year, ladder related citations make the “OSHA Top 10 Citations List”. There are four main types of ladder accidents: selecting the wrong type of ladder for the job, using worn or damaged ladders, incorrectly using ladders and incorrect placement of ladders. Choosing the correct type of ladder for each job is imperative. The type of material, load limit, and duty rating for the ladder must all be considered. Ladders should be inspected before initial use and before each work shift. This inspection should include ensuring the bottom feet are not broken and slip resistant pads are in place. Check all rungs, rails, shelves, spreaders and rung locks ensuring nothing is broken, cracked, rusted, bent or loose. If a ladder is damaged or broken, tag it “Out of Service”. Maintaining 3 points of contact is critical while using a ladder. These contact points can be 2 hands and 1 foot or 2 feet and 1 hand. Ladders should be set up on a stable, hard surface and should maintain a 1:4 ratio, meaning set up 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet of ladder height. Often ladder related accidents occur due to individuals carrying items as they climb. Proper planning plays a key role in ladder safety. Plan ahead on how you will safely get materials to the higher level to complete the job. While working on a ladder, you should face the ladder, stay centered and avoid overreaching.
For more helpful information on ladder safety, NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety) has a ladder safety phone app that can be downloaded. OSHA (www.osha.gov) has quick cards on their website to download. Additionally, free ladder safety resources are offered by ALI (American Ladder Institute) www.americanladderinstitute.org. Here at Safety Consulting Specialists, we have put together a “Ladder Safety Tips: 10 Do’s and Don’ts List” which outlines many useful safe practices while using ladders. We hope you will find it helpful. Additionally, we offer safety training programs which include ladder safety and proper scaffold use.
If you need workplace safety advice, please call Safety Consulting Specialists at 919-417-2139 or drop us an email. We are always available to speak to you about how we can assist in minimizing potential risks to you or your employees, including ladder and scaffold safety. We look forward to hearing from you.