Heading for a Fall COMPILED BY THE RISK MANAGEMENT STAFF
Many of us are guilty of trying to hop a ladder a few feet to the side instead of climbing down and moving it the proper way. Or maybe you’ve done the suicide lean by extending your body as far to the side as possible to get to a spot that’s just out of reach. While you may have successfully completed these dangerous maneuvers in the past, chances are you’re heading for a fall.
Each year, thousands of workers are injured on ladders. The three most common causes for these accidents are ladders being in poor condition; using the wrong type of ladder for the job; or using the ladder improperly. A poorly designed, maintained or improperly used ladder may collapse and cause the Soldier or employee to fall. If you’re working on a ladder or other elevated platform, make sure you know the requirements for using them safely. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following information to help prevent injuries.Types of ladders
There are many types of ladders on the market. The first thing you must determine is how you will use the ladder. If the ladder is intended to be portable and used by one person, it fits into one of the three basic categories: stepladder, single ladder and extension ladder.
Portable stepladders longer than 20 feet shall be equipped with a metal spreader or locking device of sufficient size and strength to securely hold the front and back sections in the open position. Single ladders longer than 30 feet and extension ladders longer than 60 feet should not be used.
Other key considerations when selecting a ladder are the duty rating, which determines how much weight it will safely support, and the type of material from which it is made. There are five different official ratings, which include your weight plus what you carry, set by the American National Safety Institute. ANSI codes also have an established duty rating, which identifies the proper portable ladder for the conditions under which it can be safely used.
Ladders commonly come in three materials: aluminum, wood and fiberglass. Aluminum is the most durable; however, it will conduct electricity, making these ladders dangerous to use around electricity. A wood ladder will not conduct electricity, but it can rot. A rotted ladder is a safety hazard. Fiberglass is the best combination of durability and non-conductivity. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive.Proper use of ladders
Even a good ladder can pose a serious safety hazard when used improperly. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards require the following safety precautions for ladder use:
- Ladders should be placed with a secure footing, or they should be lashed or held in position.
- Ladders used to gain access to a roof or other area should extend at least 3 feet above the point of support.
- The foot of a ladder should, where possible, be used at such a pitch that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is one-quarter of the working length of the ladder (the length along the ladder between the foot and the support).
- The worker should always face the ladder when climbing up or down.
- The base of a ladder should be placed 1 foot away from the support for every 4 feet of length. This is a simple process that can actually save lives. Remember, falls are the No. 1 cause of death.
Have you ever had someone ask you for documentation of your ladder inspections? Actually, a ladder inspection is not a complicated process for a person trained in what to look for. As Soldiers, we are told to keep our equipment in good condition at all times. OSHA has the same requirement when it comes to ladders. Ladders should be inspected frequently, and those with defects should be withdrawn from service for repair or destruction and marked as “Dangerous – Do Not Use.” Using a damaged or faulty ladder can lead to falls. You should also only choose ladders with the Underwriter's Laboratory seal.
Working from a ladder can be dangerous. Make sure you pick the right ladder for the job and maybe someone won’t have to pick you up off the ground. For additional information on ladder safety, check out OSHA’s guide at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3124.pdf