Ladders are simple to use and among the most common of workplace tools. Despite its simplicity, injuries from ladder falls are all too common. According to the CDC, falls from ladders account for 81% of fall injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments.
Among the reasons for this statistic are that workers underestimate the dangers of working on ladders and have an incomplete understanding of their safe use. Ladders allow workers access to high places but lack the safety rails of scaffolds. Workers precariously positioned on ladders can easily lose their balance. In addition, there are many improper ways of ladder usage, ten of which are discussed next:
- Failing to read information and warning labels. The ladder’s simplicity cause people to ignore information and warnings about safe usage and weight limits.
- Not using three-point contact. Use three-point contact while going up or down a ladder. This means that two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand should contact the rungs at all times while climbing.
- Not placing the ladder on a safe surface. Place the ladder on a solid, flat, stable, and level surface.
- Climbing too high. Never climb past the point where the sides of the ladder are out of reach of your hands.
- Placing the ladder at the wrong angle. The distance from the wall to the base of the ladder should be one-quarter of the ladder’s length.
- Carrying objects while climbing. Three-point contact is impossible when carrying tools or other objects in your hands.
- Using ladders next to electrical hazards. Power lines and nearby electrical equipment can knock the worker off the ladder especially one made from metal. Carrying ladders around electrical hazards also expose the worker to electrical shock.
- Moving a ladder while a worker is on it.
- Using a ladder with unsecured locks. This includes using a closed step-ladder as a single ladder.
- Accessing an elevated surface from a ladder that is too short. Never stand on the top rung. The ladder should extend three feet beyond the elevated surface.