Before You Climb a Ladder, Think Safety!
According to a recent comparison study, “U.S. Construction Worker Fall Accidents: There Causes and Influential Factors” (2014) findings were construction work on new projects or new additions continue to be more vulnerable to falls. Specialty trade contractors were found to be more susceptible to fall accidents and they continue to contribute to the majority of the falls.
[Graph Credit: Sohaib Siddiqui, p.69]
The study also showed that out of twenty-six different trades in the U.S. Construction Industry, the trade of roofing, siding and sheet metal work, carpentry works, structural steel erection works and single family construction experienced the highest number of fall accidents.
The findings clearly demonstrate that fall accidents have increased in the last 10 years, which indicates the situation has gotten worse in the case of falls in the U.S. construction industry.
With these facts in mind, here are some DO’s and DON’Ts of ladder use:
DO opt for a fiberglass ladder if there’s any chance you’ll be working with wiring or near power lines, since metal, water logged or dirty wood ladders CAN conduct electricity.
DON’T underestimate the maximum load capacity you need. Even if you weigh 150 pounds, carrying three 44s will put you over a 225-pound limit. A duty rating of I, IA, or IAA (250, 300, or 375 pounds, respectively) should do the trick for most home projects.
Choose the Right Size
DO get the right height. If you’re deciding between two ladder heights, opt for the taller one to give yourself some leeway.
Step Ladder – choose a ladder approximately 4 feet less than the maximum height to reach. If the maximum height to reach is 8 feet, choose a 4 foot ladder.
Extension Ladder – Choose a ladder approximately 7 feet more than the maximum support point. If the support point is 9 feet, choose a 16 foot ladder.
Climbing the Ladder
Fully open the step ladder and firmly lock both spreaders. Always position the ladder so you can face your work.
DO get help with a ladder, if it’s too heavy to handle alone. Keep your hands free to maintain a firm grip. Always go a step at a time, firmly setting one foot before moving the other.
DON’T lean sideways, always keep your body centered on the ladder. Haul materials up on a line rather than carry them up.
DON’T stand above the highest safe standing level. DON’T stand above the 2nd step from the top of the stepladder and the 4th rung from the top of an extension ladder. DON’T sit or stand on the top or pail shelf.
Angle the Ladder Properly
If you place your ladder too close to a building you could tip over; too far away and it could slip out from under you. Always follow the 4-to-1 rule: for every four feet of height you have to climb, move the base one foot away from the wall.
DO a safety check.
Check locks. Ensure extension-ladder rung locks are secure and the fly section (the top portion) is slid in front of the base (the lower section) before climbing.
For stepladders, fully extend the rail spreaders. If the ground at the ladder’s base is uneven, make it level by digging out dirt and standing the legs on a wide plank. Make sure the ladder is firmly seated; it shouldn’t rock or wiggle.
Look over the ladder carefully each time before climbing. Make sure moving parts are working properly.
DON’T use a ladder on icy ground, oily surfaces, or other slippery materials.
DON’T ever use a damaged ladder.
Whether you are installing or replacing siding or roofing materials, your ladder is only as safe as you make it.