Why Are Ladder Falls So Prevalent?
There are several prevailing reasons ladder falls happen so often, and they’re easily remedied. The first is using the wrong ladder for the job you’re doing. A good example of this is using a step ladder (also referred to as an A-frame ladder) to step onto a higher elevation (an extension ladder should be used in this instance). Lack of training regarding proper ladder use is another common issue—this often leads to the first problem of using the wrong ladder for the job. In the construction world, another complication is that there are no federal OSHA requirements for fall protection when working on a ladder. Luckily, improving your ladder safety routine is quick and simple.
Ladder Safety Tips
Haselden Senior Safety Manager Travis Weber offers some ladder safety tips that are easy to implement whether you’re at home or on the job site:
- Use the right type of ladder for the job.
- Use the right size ladder for your job; be sure not to try and make do with an undersized ladder by standing on one of the top two rungs.
- Inspect your ladder prior to use to ensure it’s in good condition. Things to keep an eye out for include bent or cracked rungs (like the one pictured right), cracked side rails, missing slip-resistant safety feet on the bottom, and pop-rivets that aren’t in place. Also, make sure it’s clean (free from grease, mud, paint, etc. that could cause a slip and fall).
- Proper ladder set up is key! Use a 4’-to-1’ ladder angle, meaning for every 4’ the ladder is vertical, the base should be extended 1’ out from the vertical surface. Additionally, an extension ladder should extend 3’ above the top walking working surface it rests on.
- When using an extension ladder, make sure the ladder is tied off (pictured right) and secured to keep it from slipping or falling. If it’s not possible to secure it, use a second team member to hold the ladder.
- Use the “belt buckle rule” – keep your belt buckle between the rails of the ladder to ensure balance stability.
- Always use three points of contact when climbing and descending—two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet. Don’t carry tools while moving up or down the ladder—use a haul rope to pull up tools or materials.
Improper Step Ladder Use
This step ladder is being improperly used for several reasons: it is folded and leaned against the vertical surface, the person is standing on the second rung from the top, and it’s being used to access a higher elevation.
Most Commonly Used Ladders on Construction Sites
Extension Ladder: Non-self-supporting ladder that adjusts in length and is intended to be used by one person to gain access to an upper elevation.
Step Ladder: Also referred to as an A-frame ladder, this is a self-supporting ladder typically used as a work platform (e.g., you stand on it to change a lightbulb). You should not be stepping off this ladder onto an upper elevation.
Job-Built Ladder: These ladders are constructed at the jobsite and used as a source of access and egress. They are not intended to serve as a work platform and are used temporarily until permanent stairways or fixed ladders are installed.
Ladder Safety at Haselden
Haselden is known for our safety measures and we do take things a step farther when it comes to ladder safety. Though not necessitated by OSHA, we require that all extension ladders on our job sites are secured at both the top and bottom. We also don’t permit aluminum ladders on our sites due to the risk of shock because of aluminum’s conductivity.
Even if you’re not the person on the ladder, you can still take extra steps to exercise safe practices around ladders. Be aware of the environments surrounding ladder placement, especially in hallways and around doorways. Avoid walking by or next to (and, of course, under) ladders in use, and try to find an alternate route.
Ladder safety doesn’t take much time or effort, but it is certainly worth your attention. Want to dedicate some more time to learning ladder safety? The American Ladder Institute (ALI) offers free online Ladder Safety Training!
There’s an App for That!
Ladders may be old school—a picture of a ladder was found in a 10,000 year old cave in Spain!—but the technology is up-to-date! You can load this app (available in English and Spanish) from NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) on ladder safety to your iPhone or Android!