Ladders are a fundamental tool in construction. They are so commonplace it is easy to forget they are potentially hazardous. When it comes to ladders, it’s up to construction company owners and leaders to set the safety tone. It starts by insisting that proper safety rules are followed to reduce the risk of worker injury.
Think it’s no big deal? 81% of construction-related fall injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms involve a ladder! Falls are the #1 cause of death on construction sites. Ladders are involved in 33% of those fatalities. Yet ladder related injuries are easily prevented.
Many safety rules involve how a ladder is climbed. Running up a ladder at break-neck speed is, well, inviting a broken neck.
The American Ladder Institute says that the best way to climb a ladder is to always have 3 points of contact. Workers shouldn’t be carrying items in their hands that could get in the way of keeping a hold on the ladder. (Use towlines, an assistant, tool belt, etc. to deliver tools and materials instead.)
Other safety tips include:
- Go up the ladder slowly and carefully. The goal is to prevent ladder tipping from unexpected motions.
- Remain in the center of the ladder as it is climbed. This again helps protect against tipping.
- Always step one rung at a time. Skipping rungs is a sure-fire way to lose balance.
- When a ladder is in use, workers should make sure their shoes are clean. Sand and mud can reduce traction and lead to a slip.
- Only ladders designed to handle more than one climber at a time should be used for that purpose.
- Avoid the use of metal ladders near electrical lines or in storm conditions.
- Avoid the use of all ladders in heavy winds or storms.
- Keep ladders clear of doors.
- Only operate ladders on level surfaces.
One of the key questions that workers should ask is whether a ladder is the most appropriate tool for the situation.
Train workers to ask these key questions:
- While on the ladder, will heavy items have to be held?
- Does the height require a long ladder? How stable will it be?
- Will one be working on the ladder for a longer period of time?
- Will the work require reaching off-center from the ladder?
If “yes” is the answer to one or more of these questions, consider leveraging alternate pieces of equipment. These might include scissor lifts and lifting pods.
Managing worker safety is critical to reduce injury risk. It also helps control Workers Comp insurance costs.
For more tips on Workmans Comp, be sure to reach out to your local insurance professional. We’re here to help!