Reaching New Heights in Ladder Safety

The majority of an individual’s time is spent in the workplace. For some, that parallels potentially dangerous working conditions where proper safety equipment and training must be utilized to promote an incident-free outcome. Not all dangerous situations found in the workplace result from unsafe behavior or poorly operating equipment. It can just exist because of the nature of the work being performed. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidents involving ladders account for over 500,000 injuries on an annual basis. So for employees who use ladders regularly in the workplace, this can be identified as a staggering statistic. One might think that using a basic ladder should be met with ease, but that complacency can also enable incidents. 

Employees can combat the dangers of ladder usage in various ways. Each can provide a level of awareness that serves as a catalyst in critical thinking and applying adequate consideration to the task at hand. When properly identifying potential hazards, specific measures can assist in prevention methods. 

Draw on Technology 

As a population, no matter the age, we seem to retreat to the confines of our smartphones and computers for instantaneous information and answers. While this can potentially skew a level of reality, it can actually prove useful in the workplace. Extracting answers immediately closes the gap on the time span where incidents can occur. 

The web is littered with information on how to select the proper ladder for the task at hand. Various industry-specific websites provide information on where to use certain ladders constructed of specific materials. For instance, an employee performing work around electrical hazards would refrain from using an aluminum ladder and instead opt for the fiberglass option. 

Work regulatory agencies like NIOSH even provide their assistance on the matter with an app that is outfitted with details that serve as a guide to mapping the correct selection regarding ladders. It is even equipped with features enabled through the use of your smartphone in choosing the correct angle of incline when staging a ladder for use. 

Inspection and Verification

Before attempting to ascend a ladder, an adequate inspection should be conducted to identify potential issues that could result in injury and incident. The rails should be inspected for cracks and splits. The welds on the treads where they attach to the rails should be examined to ensure they are not compromised. Additional components like the feet should be in acceptable working order so they can be staged correctly. Ladders with one broken or damaged foot are unstable and can fall. The plastic molded top serves as a connection harness that marries the front and rear sections together. Should it be split or otherwise compromised, it can result in unexpected disassembly. The user can fall to the ground and receive serious injury or even die. 

Inspections should be verified tso (technical standard order) to communicate to other users that it is, or is not, in good working condition. As a result, these inspections should be documented in the form of an inspection checklist. A tagging system can even accompany an inspection system and provide a universal means of communication. Green indicates the ladder is ready for use, and red designates it needs to be removed from service. 

Climbing Confidence 

The term three-point contact is well known in the industrial world. It was actually developed in accordance with climbing ladders. Human beings have four potential contact points available to them through the feet and hands. Three-point contact is found with two feet and a hand grasping the ladder, or two hands and one foot. This allows for the absolute best in stability and support. This can help the ladder user command confidence when ascending and descending the ladder. 

Additionally, the user can execute other steps or processes that strengthen that confidence level. The ladder should be staged on solid ground to avoid shaking and movement. Wearing proper footwear that includes a defined heel can help lock the feet into place and avoid slipping. A popular mistake made when climbing a ladder is gripping the rails instead of the rungs. This allows the elbows to be outside the perimeter of the body and can be subjected to obstruction. Keep the fit confined and tight to ensure success. 

Manufacturer Recommendations 

Correct decision-making is crucial when selecting a ladder. The most effective way to select and use the ladder properly is to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Ladders come with a tag affixed to the rails. All pertinent information can be found by studying the available information. To ensure a successful outcome when using ladders in the workplace, the employee should follow and never deviate from the guidelines provided. 

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with nine years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and Masonry Magazine. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]