Level Up On Ladder Safety
March is National Ladder Safety Month. The campaign 'was designed to raise awareness of ladder safety and to decrease the number of ladder-related injuries and fatalities.'
Fact 1: There are 137 ladder injuries every day
Fact 2: Ladder falls most commonly occur at a height of 6 to 10 feet
Turns out using a ladder can be highly dangerous – here’s how to level up on ladder safety.
According to the American Ladder Institute, the most common ladder accidents are as follows:
- Missing the top step
- Carrying materials and not maintaining three points of contact
Often, these types of accidents can be avoided with the correct safety practices. Remember the 3 Cs:
1. Maintain three points of contact at all times
2. Position the ladder as close as is safe to the point of interest
3. Concentrate, accidents happen as people are rushing and miss rungs on the ladder
1. Three points of contact
At all times, when you are on the ladder, remember to maintain three points of contact between you and the ladder, that is both feet and at least one hand, or both hands and at least one foot. This makes sure that you have control of your movement at all times when on the ladder, and ensures that you maintain a good grip and balance.
2. Position the ladder as close as if safe to the point of interest
If the ladder is too far from the access point, you may find yourself overreaching, which is highly dangerous. If the ladder is too close, then you may find it difficult to maneuver, and find yourself off balance as a result.
When positioning the base of the ladder, remember the 4 : 1 rule. The distance separating the base of the ladder from the base of the structure supporting the ladder must be ¼ of the height of the ladder's anchor point, or tie-off point.
Take the time to position the ladder carefully when you're on the ground; you won't be able to move it safely once you're climbing. A good positioning to begin with is the quickest way to do the job – incorrect positioning, and you'll have to climb all the way back down. The best positioning may not be the most obvious, for example directly beneath the location you're looking to access; consider whether or not the access point has loose items or debris which may fall on top of you as you start to climb up. In this case, it may be better to position the base of the ladder slightly to one side.
Don't be hurried on the ladder. Maintain composure as you move up the ladder. And on the way down; ensure that your center of gravity is inside the runners of the ladder. If you swing too far to one side, overreaching for example, your center of gravity will extend outside the ladder and pull the whole thing – both you and it – over. Finally, before stepping off the ladder, ensure that there are no more rungs to go.
In response to the question of 'what type of ladder-related accidents/incidents have occurred at their organization over the last two years', according those surveyed1 – beyond the three most common mentioned above (overreaching, missing the last step, not maintaining three points of contact), the next most common are as follows:
- 3rd most common; Ladder was not the right size for the job (i.e., length)
- 4th most common; ladder used for unintended purpose
- 5th insufficient extension ladder length extending above an upper elevation access point
There is a general trend here, namely types of ladder-related accidents or injuries, which could be positioned in a broader category of improper application of different types of ladder, or put more simply: wrong ladder for the job. To help you to choose the right ladder for the job, here is a brief summary of a few different types of ladder and their application :
fixed structure ladder, often with handrails to make climbing easier, with a base set on wheels. Ideally suited for warehouses or distribution centers where workers may have regularly set and reset the ladder to multiple access points in the same shift, e.g. retrieving customer items for shipping.
a single ladder which can be thought of in three parts: ladder up, ladder down, and a raised platform connecting the two, usually with handrails, and sometimes a more comprehensive support structure on the platform. Ideally suited to facilities with active conveyors or any other large obstructions, the crossover allows workers to cross the conveyor safely, while maximizing efficiency in footfall.
a non-portable ladder, set up in a fixed, permanent position. Ideally suited for regular access points, or facilities requiring workers to move vertically between access points.
the most common type of ladder, found in all types of facility. The step ladder has a diverse range of applications, and is highly portable. However, the step ladder is like any other ladder, and requires just as much respect. Make sure not to use the top step of a step ladder, doing so may cause the ladder to fall.
a type of ladder that, as the name suggests, can reach higher access points if modified by the user. The structure extends from the middle, with the extendable part of the ladder housed inside the main structure. The ladder can then be extended further, folding out from the middle. For more information, see this video.
And remember, as expert Mark says: Respect The Tool.
1. Of those surveyed for the American Ladder Institute's Safety Report 2020, the top three categories constituting just under half (48%) of all respondents:
Safety Director – 22%
Safety Administrator – 16%
Team Lead/Foreman – 10%
2. 3rd = with 'three points of contact were not used when climbing'.
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