Ladders are such a common piece of access equipment, how can they have such a risk associated with them? Every year, ~1,200 individuals suffer major injuries and 12 people die from ladder falls. You may not feel like you are very high up on some ladders, e.g. step ladders, however it's not necessarily about the distance you fall but also the way that you fall. All work above ground-level, no matter what height, is considered "working at height".
Use these top tips to keep yourself ladder safe and ensure you use your ladder in the appropriate way!
1. USE AS ACCESS FOR SHORT DURATIONS
Ladders are not working platforms; there is no fall protection/prevention provided, and there is no edge protection. Access work that requires more than 30 consecutive minutes should not be considered ladder-appropriate as your risk of falls increases. Ladders should be considered for work under 30 minutes, requires only one hand, within easy reaching distance.
2. USE THE CORRECT TYPE OF LADDER
Using the correct type of ladder for the job is an important step in reducing risk of falls.
Important factors to consider when choosing a ladder include whether it will be used for indoor/outdoor use, the height you need to reach, the performance of the ladder (for example, load capacity or job demands), and the material it is made from.
3. USE ON STABLE SURFACES
Ladder stability relies on the stability of the surface it is resting on. The surface needs to be level and strong enough to support the ladder securely while in use. If the surface is unstable, consider an adjustable ladder such as the Hailo Profilot S100 Pedal Adjustable Combi Extension Ladder .
4. CHECK LADDER CONDITION BEFORE USE
Once you have checked that a ladder is the right equipment for the job, you need to check that your ladder is in good enough condition for use. Ladders are well-used pieces of equipment, so they can take a battering during use, in storage and in transport. It's important to always check a ladder before use to reduce your risk of falls.
You should also regularly inspect ladders for signs of deterioration. Check for splits, warping, decay, damage, etc. It is easy to see how a missing or defective rung could cause a user to lose their footing and fall.
Check that wooden ladders have not been painted, as flaking paint can also cause slips or disguise damage.
5. USE IN SAFE PLACES
Ladders are temporary, and usually considered for short access work such as maintenance. When you extend one out, other people might not be expecting you to be there! Be aware of your surroundings - for example, are you too close to a corner that someone could walk straight into the ladder?
Do not use a ladder in a driveway or passageway unless you can protect yourself appropriately. Use barriers and signage to warn of works being performed, or have an assistant constantly in attendance to notify passersby etc.
6. USE THE 4 TO 1 RULE
How you position your ladder can have a big impact on safety, and therefore impact your risk of fall. For stepladders, you should make sure they are fully extended before use.
For leaning ladders, you should remember the 4 to 1 rule. Ladders must be placed at a safe angle of ~75 degrees. This means the distance from the base of your ladder to the wall should be ¼ height reached by the ladder.
7. SECURE THE LADDER IN PLACE
Ladders can slip both outwards and side to side. Sideways movement usually happens near the top of the ladder. They are best secured by tying or fixing the ladder near the top. This prevents it from slipping either outwards or sideways. Where securing at the upper end of the ladder towards the top is not possible, securing at the middle or near the base is necessary.
Where securing at neither the top, middle or bottom is possible, the ladder should be secured by other measures. For example through the use of a stability device or wedging the ladder. Footing the ladder is the last resort and only where other methods are not practical.
If using an interlocking or extension ladder, the sections should be locked in place to prevent them from moving. Make sure it is secure and stable before use.
8. KEEP 3 POINTS OF CONTACT
When climbing or descending ladders, both hands are needed. You should always have a secure handhold available when using a ladder. This means, when ladders are used for access, they protrude above the access point. This is so you can maintain a handhold while dismounting (unless another secure handhold has been provided).
Additionally, you should think about how you will move tools and materials up the working height if required. Think about using a toolbelt, shoulder bag or similar for this situation (or hoist them up afterwards).
Ladder safety is key to preventing falls and ultimately reducing the risk of serious injury or death.
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