This month’s safety topic is one that we revisit every year. Ladder related injuries are still happening and it is one that is easily avoidable if you follow the rules to keep you safe. Using ladders will always be a task that many people perform at work or even completing odd jobs around the house. Ladders are not just used in construction or services jobs, you can find them in office settings as well. Ladders are used in storage rooms, warehouses, retail stores and many other places. The same rules apply when at work or at home, yet many of us still take chances by not following simple ladder safety basics. Falls from elevated surfaces and falls from the same level (falling off of a ladder) are still listed as two of the top 8 causes of accidents in the workplace. Hospitals are still reporting spikes in non-occupational injuries of 50%. To help prevent ladder injuries, practice the following safety tips.
Setting up Safely
Make sure you select the correct ladder for the job—check the length and duty rating. Proper length is a minimum of “three feet” extending over the roofline or working surface. Inspect your ladder before each use for loose or damaged:
· Rung dogs
· Safety feet
Always clear the area where you will be working. Make sure that materials or tools are not interfering with secure placement. Never place a ladder in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded. Because metal ladders conduct electricity, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder near power lines or electrical equipment.
Check that all locks on extension ladders are properly engaged before placing your ladder on a steady surface. The ground underneath the ladder should be level and firm. Large, flat wooden boards braced underneath a ladder can help level it on an uneven surface or soft ground. Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at approximately a 75 degree angle.
Use the 1:4 ratio to ensure your safety when on a ladder. Place the base of the ladder one foot away from whatever it’s leaning against for every four feet of height up to the point of contact for the top of the ladder.
Use Caution (And Common Sense)
Always exercise caution when using a ladder and do not use a ladder for any other purpose than intended. Other safety considerations include:
Make sure the weight that your ladder is supporting does not exceed its maximum load rating (user plus materials). Only one person should be on a ladder at a time.
· Keep your body centered between the rails of the ladder at all times. Do not lean too far to the side while working. Never overreach. Instead, descend from the ladder and move it to a better position.
· Do not step on the top step, bucket shelf, or attempt to climb or stand on the rear section of a stepladder.
· Always face the ladder when climbing up or down. Never leave a raised ladder unattended. Slowly step down from a ladder if you feel dizzy or tired
· Non-slip footwear should be worn at all times when on a ladder.
· Portable ladders with structural defects—such as broken or missing rungs, cleats or steps, broken or split rails, corroded components or other faulty or defective components—must immediately be marked defective or tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language and withdrawn from service until repaired.
· Never paint your ladder—some contractors paint their ladder to identify which one belongs to them on the job site. Per OSHA’s rules, ladders must not be painted, and all stickers and labels cannot be covered up by paint, markers, or other coatings that interfere with the user’s ability to read the ladders ratings and warnings. If you find your ladder’s stickers are not readable, you can order more from the manufacturer to become compliant with OSHA’s rules. You don’t have to buy a new ladder as long as you are positive of the ladder’s rating.
Take Care Of Your Ladder And It Will Take Care Of You
When you are finished with your ladder, put it back where it belongs. Always keep ladders clean and free of excess material. Store it in a safe and dry place, out of direct exposure to the sun and the elements. Make sure your ladders are tied down during transit. Never paint a wooden ladder; but you may use clear wood preservatives to help protect a wooden ladder.
Ladders pose specific safety hazards, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the risks and safety rules to help minimize ladder accidents. Your ladder is one of your most important tools. It is also one of your most unforgiving when misused and mistreated, so use it safely and wisely.