We grew up watching Dad and Grandpa navigate ladders like pros - trimming their trees, fixing that light fixture in the hall, hanging mom’s precious artwork, the list goes on. They made it seem so easy to climb that ladder and get the job done!
Despite how harmless it might seem to work from a ladder, you’d be surprised to learn that falls are one of the leading causes of worker deaths in the construction industry; accounting for nearly 39.2% of all work-related deaths in 2017. In fact, fall protection was the top OSHA standard violated in fiscal year 2018.
Falls from heights are preventable. It is important to understand that a ladder is a tool and it should be handled with care. Keep each other safe on the job site by following these safety tips:
Basic Ladder Safety
- If you feel dizzy or tired, or are prone to losing your balance, do not use the ladder.
- Never use ladders during storms or high winds.
- Wear clean slip resistant shoes. Shoes with leather soles are not appropriate for ladder use as they are not considered sufficiently slip resistant.
- Before using a ladder, ensure it is in good working condition.
- Ladders with loose or missing parts should be rejected.
- Ladders that sway, lean to one side, or are rickety should be rejected.
- The ladder you use must be the correct sized ladder for the job.
- The Duty Rating of the ladder must be greater than the total weight of the climber, supplies, tools and other objects placed upon the ladder.
- The length of the ladder must be sufficient so that the climber does not have to stand on the top step or rung.
- The ladder should be set-up on firm level ground without any kind of slippery condition present at either base or top support points.
- Unless the ladder is specifically designed to support more than one climber, ensure only one person at a time is permitted to use the ladder.
- Never place a ladder in front of closed doors that can open towards the ladder. Ensure the door is blocked open, locked or guarded.
- Review the safety information labels on the ladder before use.
- The on-product safety information is specific to the particular type of ladder on which it appears. The climber is not considered qualified or adequately trained to use the ladder until familiar with this information.
The Three Point-of-Contact Climb
At all times during ascent, descent, and working, the climber must face the ladder and have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder steps, rungs and/or side rails. When climbing a ladder, it is safest to utilize Three Points-of-Contact because it minimizes the chances of slipping and falling from the ladder.
By utilizing this technique, the climber is less likely to become unstable in the event that one limb slips during the climb. Reduce the chances of falling during a climb by:
- Wearing slip resistant shoes with heavy soles to prevent foot fatigue.
- Cleaning the soles of shoes to maximize traction.
- Using towlines, a tool belt or an assistant to convey materials so that the climbers hands are free when climbing.
- Climbing slowly and deliberately while avoiding sudden movements.
- Never attempting to move a ladder while standing on it.
- Keeping the center of your belt buckle (stomach) between the ladder side rails when climbing and while working. Do not overreach or lean while working so that you don't fall off the ladder sideways or pull the ladder over sideways while standing on it.
Lack of attention, sudden movement, the condition of the ladder, the users age and/or physical condition, haste and user’s footwear are all factors that contribute to falls from ladders. Make it a habit to carefully set-up the ladder in an effort to create a safe work environment for yourself and your team.