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How to Practice Ladder Safety at Work
There were nearly 20,000 people injured while using ladders in 2016. Even worse, 133 people lost their lives while working on ladders or scaffolding. OSHA requires that any persons working above six feet, and in some cases four feet, utilize some type of fall protection whether that be guardrails or actual personal fall protection devices. However, this does not cover portable ladders which are one of the more common types of ladders used in general industry. This makes teaching ladder safety particularly important.
The National Safety Councils notes that workers in the construction industry are the most at risk. Falls are becoming the second leading cause of deaths second only to motor vehicle crashes.
According to OSHA, ladder-related accidents have become a permanent inclusion on its top 10 list of most cited violations. The agency reported 2,625 making it number seven on the list.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that carrying items while using a ladder contributed to well over half of ladder-related accidents. Furthermore, in 2015, falls accounted for 350 of 937 construction fatalities. Out of those fatalities, 150 falls were from ladders. Imagine if we could prevent those falls.
With proper training and equipment, these accidents and injury rates can be significantly reduced.
Main Causes of Ladder-related Accidents at Work
- Incorrect Use of Ladders – Human errors are the leading cause of ladder-related accidents. One of the most important rules to keep in mind is always maintain three points of contact while using a ladder. That’s one hand and two feet as you move up.
- Using Worn or Damaged Ladders – Proper and consistent inspection of ladders is often overlooked particularly with smaller, portable ladders.
- Improper Placement of Ladders – Training on how to properly use ladders may be insufficient, as workers are sometimes unaware of how to correctly place their ladders for use.
- Choosing the Wrong Type of Ladders – Some ladders are not ideal to use in selected situations like high-rise structures or exceeding the maximum weight limit.
OSHA’s Quick Card on Portable Ladder Safety
- Read and follow all labels marked on the ladder.
- Always inspect the ladder before using it. Make sure there isno damage.
- Avoid displacement of ladders by securing top and bottom.
- Use ladders only on level and stable surfaces.
- Avoid moving or shifting the ladder when a person is on the ladder.
- If ladders are marked damaged, they must be removed immediately and tagged until repaired or discarded.
- Use ladder accessories designed for their intended purpose only.
- Make sure ladders are free from any slippery materials.
- Avoid using the top rung of the ladder as a step unless designed for such purpose.
- Avoid placing ladders on top of barrels, boxes or any unstable surface for additional height.
- All locks on an extension ladder must be properly secured and engaged prior to use.
- Take note of the ladder’s maximum weight limit and avoid exceeding the number.
- Avoid using a self-supporting ladder as a single ladder.
- Maintain a 3-point contact on the ladder when climbing. These include your two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand. Your body must be in the middle of the step when climbing.
- Check for overhead power lines before use. Avoid using metal ladders near power lines.
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