Each year, U.S. emergency rooms treat more than 164,000 injuries related to ladders, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. These devices are essential in construction, maritime and manufacturing industries, and their risks demand attention. Workers who use extension ladders and stepladders to gain access to elevated task locations can decrease their risk of slips and falls by adhering to basic safety guidelines.
Before climbing a ladder, pay attention to the condition of the equipment and check the sticker for the duty rating. The rating must be greater than the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies and other objects placed upon the ladder. The climber should wear slip-resistant shoes, taking into consideration that leather soles are not sufficiently slip-resistant.
Maintaining three points of contact is the safest technique for climbing a ladder because it minimizes the chances for slipping. Using this technique during ascent or descent is possible only if the climber has his or her hands free. Do not carry any objects in either hand.
Reduce your chances of falling by:
- Wearing slip-resistant shoes with heels and heavy soles to prevent foot fatigue
- Cleaning the soles to maximize traction
- Using towlines, a tool belt or an assistant to convey materials so your hands are free when climbing
- Climbing slowly and deliberately and avoiding sudden movements
- Keeping the center of your belt buckle between the ladder side rails when climbing or working
A good rule of thumb for erecting an extension ladder at the proper angle is to place the base a distance from the upper support that is equal to one-quarter of the extended length of the ladder. For example, the base of a ladder that is extended to 20 feet should rest approximately 5 feet out from the wall or upper support.
Use of a stepladder requires level ground for all four side rails. Never use a stepladder as a single ladder or in a partially open position, and choose a stepladder that is no more than 4 feet shorter than the height you want to reach.
Ongoing training and clear management expectations on ladder use can help ensure employees minimize risk. New-hire training simply is not enough to drive home the necessity of using care with ladders. According to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls remain a leading cause of workplace fatalities.
For more information on workplace safety issues, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.