Ladder safety has its ups & downs

When you see a coworker engaging in risky behavior, Take Five and speak up. Don’t let them learn the hard way.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission annually reports that more than 100,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics as a result of falls from ladders due to not following proper safety precautions. Most of the injuries are cuts, bruises and fractures. However, more than 300 annual fatalities occur from ladder-related injuries. Due to today’s struggling economy, more people will likely take on do-it-yourself jobs involving ladders at work and at home.

Ladders are the proper and safer alternative to standing on chairs, paint cans, stacked objects, etc. when it comes to accessing elevated heights. Your ladder is a useful tool and a safety system for climbing. However, the additional safety afforded by ladder use must not be circumvented by misuse.

Maximize ladder safety through proper education and by following these basic safety precautions:

  • Step off the ladder if you feel tired or dizzy.
  • Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.
  • Wear clean, slip-resistant shoes.
  • Before using a ladder, inspect it to make sure it is in good working condition.
  • The duty rating of the ladder must be greater that the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies and other objects placed on the ladder.
  • The ladder must be long enough so you do not have to stand on the top rung or step.
  • Set up ladders on firm, level and non-slippery surfaces.
  • Only one person at a time is permitted on a ladder unless the ladder is specifically designed for more than one climber (such as a trestle ladder).
  • Do not place ladders in front of closed doors that can open toward the ladder.
  • Always read the safety labels on the ladder before use.
  • Never jump or slide down from a ladder or climb more than one rung or step at a time.
  • Utilize three points of contact when climbing a ladder. At all times during ascent or descent, face the ladder and have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder cleats and/or side rails.

Get more information on ladder safety training.

— John B. Dawson, ES&H