The Many Ways We Use Ladders Incorrectly

Despite being one of the most commonly used tools both at home and on the job, ladders will often be used improperly.  Unfortunately, this often leads to injury or even death. According to the American Journal of Preventable Medicine, over 136,000 people head to the hospital every year for ladder-related emergencies – and 10% of those people need to be admitted for extended and costly stays.

Imagine how those numbers would change if everyone just practiced a little common sense when it comes to ladder safety. Next time you’re getting ready to use a ladder, read the manufacturer’s guidelines first – even people who use ladders regularly can use a refresher on occasion.

Here are some handy tips to always keep in mind:

Safety Starts With Your Ladder

Before you do anything else, your ladder needs to be in good working order. Even if you handle it frequently, you should perform a basic inspection before each use. Regrettably, this is something many people often overlook.

Items to look for include:

  • Cracked or broken steps or rungs
  • Loose or missing hinges or hinges that do not lock
  • Rot or decay in wooden ladders
  • Missing or damaged non-slip feet
  • Dirt and debris, including mud, grease, or other slippery substances
  • Wobble (ladders should always stand firm without moving side-to-side)

Always Set Up Your Ladder Properly

A ladder needs to be set up properly to be safe to use. Improper set up is a leading cause of accidental falls and means that many people are not following even the most basic guidelines. In most cases, injury can be easily avoided by following these simple rules:

For stepladders:

  • Make sure rail spreaders are open and locked
  • Place the non-skid ladder feet on level ground
  • If you are working near a door, lock it or otherwise brace it so it can’t be opened
  • Don’t place tools or other obstacles on the ladder

For extension ladders:

  • Keep the ladder feet level (use ladder levelers if necessary)
  • Place the non-skid ladder feet on solid ground – no gravel or other loose debris
  • Make sure the ladder isn’t too close to the edge of the building
  • Extend the ladder at least three feet above whatever surface you’re working on
  • Don’t rest an extension ladder against a tree, pole, or other surfaces where it could rotate
  • Always use the correct angle. As a good rule of thumb, there should be a 75-degree angle between the ladder’s resting point and the base of the wall.

Practice Safe Use

For those who use a ladder frequently, it seems like nothing bad could ever happen. However, being lax and careless is what leads to accidents. Proper usage takes little time or effort and can save a costly trip to the emergency room. Some good general rules are:

  • Always maintain 3 points of contact – either two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot
  • Never overreach or overextend
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on weight limit – every ladder is designed to hold only a specified amount of weight including you AND your equipment
  • Never stand on the top step or rung of the ladder
  • Do not try to move or shift the ladder while you’re standing on it
  • Avoid electrical hazards – always look for nearby wires before climbing

If you can remember just one rule about ladders, let it be this: never take shortcuts! No matter how much time it will save you, or how quickly you need to get the job done, cutting corners is never the answer. A few extra minutes on the job is certainly better than a few months of bedrest!

What You Can Do for National Ladder Safety Month

March is National Ladder Safety Month. This 2-year old event was designed to raise awareness of ladder safety and to decrease the number of ladder-related injuries and fatalities. Accidents can happen even to seasoned pros, but when you make safety a priority at work and home, unintentional injuries can be greatly decreased.

The American Ladder Institute breaks the month of events down into five distinct categories. Take the time to read each one, and think about how you can work the safety tips into your own life:

What is Ladder Safety?

Falls remain a leading cause of unintentional injury and mortality nationwide, and 43% of fatal falls in the last decade have involved a ladder. That’s a huge number! The vast majority of these injuries are the result of misusing the equipment. Ladder safety means taking the necessary precautions in order to prevent these accidents.

Ladder Safety at Work: Focus on Administrative Professional

As the front-line in office communications, your administrative assistant can do a lot to help improve safety. First and foremost, with the guidance of a manager, they can help design and implement safety protocol. All current employees should be brought up to date on new procedures, and new employees can be instructed in safety guidelines during the onboarding process. In addition, your admin can help investigate work safety incidents by interviewing injured employees and writing reports, as well as keeping track of first aid products and making sure the inventory is always stocked.

 

Ladder Safety at Work: Focus on Employee.

Employees can – and should – be involved in the safety process. When you make your staff responsible for their own safety, you give them a stake in the success of the program. Below are some tasks they can be in charge of:

  • Create a workplace safety committee
  • Review the current safety plan and make suggestions for improvement
  • Inspect work areas and report hazardous conditions
  • Create reports on injury statistics and safety goals

Ladder Safety at Home.

Whether you use a ladder frequently or infrequently, accidents can occur. It is always important to take the appropriate precautions, even during the most simple task – something as uncomplicated as decorating the Christmas tree can become dangerous if you’re using a ladder incorrectly. The following are easy ways to make sure your stay safe in your home:

  • Follow manufacturer instructions (proper set-up, weight limit, etc.).
  • Wear appropriate footwear – a non-slip, rubber soled shoe is always the best choice.
  • Maintain 3 points of contact at all times – this can mean two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot.
  • Don’t stretch or lean – doing either can cause the ladder to tip, causing serious injury.

Ladder Inspection and Disposal.

Using an old or faulty ladder is a common cause of trips and falls. Always inspect your ladder before every use – even if it’s only been a week since you last checked. Look for broken hinges, cracks on steps, and dirt or oil (which could cause you to slip).

With a little thought and consideration, most ladder-related accidents could be completely avoided. Use this month as an opportunity to rethink your own ladder-use habits, and consider how you might improve them.

Shocking Stats About Ladder Use

Ladders can be dangerous, whether you’re on the worksite or in the home. From slips and falls to accidental electrocutions, it is truly unbelievable how many accidents happen because of improper ladder use. In the worst of cases, improper use can cost businesses millions of dollars, leave the injured permanently handicapped, and even take loved ones away from their families. With National Ladder Safety Month right around the corner, it’s a great time to talk about the shocking statistics surrounding the issue.

  • A Consumer Product Safety Commission report states that more than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries every year. These injuries could be as simple as a sprained ankle, or as serious as a life-threatening head injury. Never take the “that would never happen to me” approach when it comes to ladders – even the most seasoned pros have serious accidents.
  • Falls accounted for 350 of the 937 construction fatalities in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than a third of all worksite deaths – a truly alarming number.
  • In 2016, OSHA reported 2,625 violations involving ladders, making ladder safety number 7 on their annual list of the Top 10 most cited violations (and that wasn’t the first time ladder safety showed up there – it is consistently on the list, year-after-year).
  • According to the National Safety Council, of all work-related injuries, falls are the second leading cause of death. Many of these happen at a lower level, resulting in a head injury, or injury to multiple body parts. While you may feel that you are safe as long as you’re not too far off the ground, any ladder work needs to be approached with great caution and care.
  • Researchers at Columbus Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) in Ohio found that 97 percent of ladder-related injuries occurred at homes, farms and other non-occupational settings. Accidents can happen during even the most benign activities, such as hanging Christmas lights or painting a wall. Proper safety measures are always important!
  • Over the last 10 years, ladder-related injuries have increased by 50%. That means that despite the prolific amount of safety information floating around out there, we are somehow becoming less safe! There is no reason this should be happening.

As National Ladder Safety Month approaches, take the time to think about how you could improve your own ladder safety habits, both in the house and on the job. The OSHA Portable Ladder Safety Quick Card is a great reference tool that you can keep folded up in your wallet, or pinned to your fridge. With a little thought and consideration, many ladder-related accidents can be avoided right from the start.

Classic Mistakes People Make on Ladders

Each year, there are more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders. The problem? Most people don’t treat ladders with the appropriate amount of respect. Just like a chainsaw or a nail gun, a ladder has the potential to cause serious injury. Accidents can occur during even the most common, mundane tasks -cleaning gutters, putting up Christmas lights, or painting the house can turn dangerous in an instant. Below are some of the most common mistakes people make on ladders:

Using the ladder improperly

  • Your ladder should always be set on an even surface. Setting your ladder on gravel or loose ground could cause it to tip, and you to fall.
  • Make sure the spreaders (the littl­e bars between the legs of a stepladder) are locked. When not locked, the ladder can fold in on itself and collapse.
  • Set the ladder at the correct angle. An extension ladder should be set so it is sitting at a 75-degree angle from the ground.

Not choosing the correct ladder for the job

It might be easier to just buy one ladder and use it for all your tasks, but it’s also incredibly dangerous. Not all ladders are intended for all uses – for instance, a step ladder shouldn’t be leaned against a wall and an aluminum ladder shouldn’t be used for electrical work.

Not inspecting the ladder before each use.

Using a defective or broken ladder can lead to grave injury. Wooden ladders are especially prone to rot and decay, but all ladders can become damaged. Before use, check for cracks in rungs, loose bolts and hinges, and general wear and tear. In addition, check for cleanliness, as grease, mud, or other debris could cause you to slip and fall.

Not being careful

  • Maintain three points of contact on your ladder at all times. This could mean both feet and one hand, or both hands and one foot.
  • Don’t lean too far away from the ladder. If an object is out of your reach, climb down and pick it up, then climb back up.
  • Always face the correct direction. You should never turn around backwards on the ladder. Not only are you facing the wrong way, but it makes it nearly impossible to maintain your three points of contact.
  • Lift and carry your ladder in the appropriate way. If you need to, ask a friend or coworker to help. Many ladders are very heavy, and trying to carry them alone can result in a fall or a back injury.

If you avoid these mistakes and use caution, you will greatly minimize your risk of fall or injury when using a ladder.

How to Safely Decorate Your Home for the Holidays

Tis the season! With Christmas fast approaching, holiday decorating is in full swing. Whether you’re decorating the tree, hanging outdoor lights, or simply removing those unsightly leaves from your gutter, ladder safety is important.

According to the Consumer Safety Product Commission, thousands of people end up in the hospital every year due to decorating-related injuries. 41% of those injuries involve falls.

Here are some safety tips to make sure you can enjoy the holidays at home with friends and family, instead of in the ER.

Inspect Your Ladder

You should always inspect your ladder at every use, but especially if you haven’t handled it in a while. From regular wear and tear to storage-related damage, there are a lot of issues that might cause your ladder to be unsafe. Check for things like loose screws, hinges and rungs, and wipe off anything, like grease, that might cause you to slip and fall.

Choose the Proper Size Ladder for the Job

Ladders come in a variety of sizes and styles, and choosing the right one is essential for safe use. One factor to consider is the weight limit. Every ladder has a maximum weight it can support (anywhere from 200lbs – 375lbs), and that includes you and any equipment you’re carrying. In addition, consider the ladder type and height. A step ladder would be appropriate for inside the house, while a combination or extension ladder would be more appropriate for outside. If you’re working on the roof, make sure your ladder extends at least 3ft above the edge.

Set the Ladder Up Correctly

Proper ladder set-up is essential for any job, as misuse can lead to injury. Never use your ladder in any way other than how the manufacturer intended. Some key points to remember are:

·      Always place your ladder on level ground.

·      Don’t try to lengthen or extend it in any way.

·      Don’t lean your ladder against anything.

·      When using a step ladder, open completely and lock into place.

  • When using an extension ladder, make sure you have the correct angle between the ladder and the house.

Always Use Your Ladder Properly

It can be tempting to hang off the side of your ladder to try to get that star on top of the tree, but it’s also dangerous. Improper ladder use leads to more injuries than anything else. Use these common-sense tips to help keep you safe:

  • Have someone else stand at the bottom to assist you, if you can.
  • No more than one person should ever be on the ladder at the same time.
  • Use caution if your ladder is set up by a doorway: either lock the door so it can’t be opened, or place a sign to warn others.
  • Keep three points of contact on the ladder at all times.
  • Don’t try to climb too high, and never stand on top of the ladder.

Finally, Keep Safety in Mind

When you’re on a ladder, always have your next move in mind. Plan what you’re going to do in your head before you actually do it, and then proceed with caution. If you’re going to be outdoors, avoid rain, snow, wind, or other inclement weather, and always wear dry, slip-resistant shoes. And, obviously, never use a table, chair, desk, or any other non-ladder item as a ladder.

Keep these tips in mind for a safe, accident-free holiday season!