Ladder Safety: 5 Steps to Prevent Fatalities
You might be thinking to yourself, “Anyone can use a ladder. It’s simple”, but there is really more than what meets the eye when it comes to ladder usage. As Construction Managers who specialize in building, planning and operating, we know construction safety is a major key to the success of any project: big or small. Ladder usage is one of many details in construction or maintenance that can be disastrous if not done properly or if the safety measures are overlooked. What should you know to avoid incidents?
Ladder Dangers and U.S. Statics
Using a ladder can be very dangerous. Fatal falls, slips or trips took the lives of 668 workers in 2012, which is only slightly lower than the total from 2011. In August 2013, the Bureau Labor of Statistics (BLS) for the U.S. Department of Labor reported: Falls to a lower level accounted for 544, or approximately 81%, of fatalities. In 437 of those incidents, the height of the fall was recorded. One in four of the fatalities resulted from a fall of 10 feet or less. Most projects around commercial construction sites and even residential sites are conducted from ladders that are 10 feet or less. Changing a light bulb, painting, trim work, even hanging home decor are all examples of work that are preformed at a level 10 feet or less.
Step 1: Read the Labels
Most ladders have safe use information attached to the side of the ladder. It is extremely important to read and follow manufacturers’ safe use information. Most people may not realize that ladders have weight restrictions. Additionally, avoid standing on the top rungs of the ladder. This can cause the ladder to become unstable and typically results in falls with injury or death. Keep in mind that most deaths happen at 10 feet or less from the ground.
Fact: Your typical household ladder is considered a light-duty ladder. This ladder is usually capable of holding up to only 200lbs.
Step 2: Consider the Type of Project You’re Working On
Take into consideration the project that you plan to take on before choosing a ladder. Would you use an aluminum ladder to work on electrical equipment? How about to change a light bulb? Answer: Always avoid using metal ladders near live wires or parts. A project as simple as changing a light bulb can expose you to live electrical currents if you have not turned off the breaker. Do you know anyone that turns off a breaker before changing a light bulb? Neither do I…
Step 3: Leave it to a Professional
Never let children climb or play on or around ladders. Ladders are not toys and can be complicated for a trained worker to be safe in ideal conditions, let alone a child.
Step 4: What Should You Consider When Picking a Ladder?
It takes minutes to read the manufacturers’ information and those few minutes could literally save your life. A few tips to address when choosing your ladder are:
- Choose the right sized ladder
- Always Inspect the ladder before use
- Do not use the ladder if it is damaged in any way
- Check the weight limit
Step 5: Take Your Time
Slow and steady wins the race with ladder safety. Don’t be in a hurry. Ask someone to assist you while you are on the ladder. Set the ladder up properly; making sure the footing is level and the ladder is stable. While working on the ladder, don’t reach too far. Instead, move the ladder for better working position. Take one step at a time and hold on with at least one hand at all times.
You may have never considered all of these factors when doing projects on a construction project or even in your own home, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. There is more to consider than you would think. Review your task or project before you start and take the appropriate safety measures and precautions. If you are still uncertain or uncomfortable, you can always ask for help.
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