Ladders Can Be Dangerous

Who would think a ladder with very few moving parts could be dangerous.

Yet everyday workers and homeowners are injured, or worse yet, killed in accidents involving the use of ladders.

How to choose a proper ladder and to work safely to ensure safe use of the equipment.

• Select a ladder that is the right length to safely reach the working height for which it is intended. Check that the ladder is of the correct duty, or weight rating. This information can be found on a sticker on the leg of the ladder. There are different classes of ladders based on load ratings and use.

• The combined weight of the individual, tools, and materials used on the ladder should never exceed the rating of the ladder. All of the information explaining weight limits for a ladder will be posted on the ladder. Check the condition of the ladder for splits or cracks in any part of the ladder. Check for missing, loose, or broken rungs. Check for materials that could cause slips, or falls and remove them prior to use.

• Place the ladder safely when setting up the ladder. When using an extension ladder, ensure the ladder is on firm footing and that its feet are one-quarter the length of the ladder (4:1 lean ratio) away from the upright surface to be climbed. For every 4 feet of vertical elevation, the ladder should be moved 1 foot horizontally away from the wall. A second person is to be used when first ascending the ladder until it is tied off.

• If you are using a step ladder, make sure it is fully open with the spreaders locked. Do not use a step ladder as an extension ladder. Do not ever stand on the top or second to top step on a ladder. The top of the ladder is not designed with the same weight limits as the other steps and the last two steps do not allow an individual to maintain safe contact with the ladder which can lead to a fall.

• Climb the ladder safely and stay focused all times. Wear proper footwear (preferably non-slip with a heel) and make sure they are free of grease or mud. Always face the ladder and use both hands while climbing up or down. You must maintain 3 points of contact while ascending and descending the ladder.

• Don’t carry tools or materials while climbing up or down the ladder. Use a rope or hand line to raise and lower tools and materials. You can also use a rope and bag. Never have someone throw tools or materials up to you or when you have finished your task, don’t throw them down.

• If you don’t feel well or if you are on prescription medicine that could make you drowsy DO NOT climb on the ladder. Always climb and work from the center of the ladder. Don’t climb on the back side of a ladder. Immediately tie off the ladder after it has been positioned in place. If there is no place to tie off the ladder, have a co-worker or helper hold the ladder while you are on it. Extension ladders must be place with at least 3 feet of the ladder passing above the attachment point or edge of the area you are gaining access to. The extra 3 feet of ladder acts as a guide or railing to allow safe access on and off the ladder when at the top of it.

• Never over-reach. Move the ladder instead. Breaking this simple rule has caused more accidents than any other safety violation while using a ladder. Your belly button or belt buckle should never pass either side of the side rail. When you pass this point, your balance is now off and can result in falling off the ladder.

• Maintain your ladders. When finished with the ladder, put it back where it belongs. There should be a designated place for each ladder on the job site or at your home. Prior to putting it up, check again for cracks, breaks or bent rungs. Store your ladder in a dry place, out of direct exposure to the sun and other harmful elements. A ladder is a very important tool and also is a very unforgivable tool if misused, so use it wisely.

• A ladder is not a work platform and should not be used as such. It is designed to get you from point A to point B. You cannot use a ladder horizontally as a scaffold.


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