Ladder Safety in Industrial Environments
In many industrial workplaces, ladder use may seem like common sense. However, with 300 workers dying each year from ladder-related injuries, it’s extremely important to discuss simple safety measures that can prevent these accidents.
There are four major causes of ladder accidents:
- Choosing the wrong type of ladder
- Performing inadequate safety inspections
- Failing to maintain contact
- Using improper angles
In this article, we will discuss how to avoid these common ladder mistakes.
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Selecting the proper ladder is crucial to ladder safety. Each type of ladder provides different functions. It is important to be aware of the height and weight restrictions for the ladder you want to use. Every ladder has a weight capacity that must be adhered to. If the weight on a ladder exceeds the limit, the ladder may buckle and injuries are more likely to occur.
If you need to reach high places, choose the appropriate ladder with the correct height availability. If you are placing your ladder on another structure to make the ladder higher, then you need to choose a different ladder that has higher height availability.
Different types of ladders provide diverse functions. Below is an overview of the three most common ladders.
- Step ladders are non-extending ladders that are free-standing, meaning they do not need to be leaned against another structure for support.
- Extension ladders, also called straight ladders, are used to reach high places. Extension ladders need to be leaned against another structure for support.
- Folding ladders are free-standing ladders used for inside jobs. They have wider steps than most ladders and store easily while not in use.
Before using the ladder, inspect for defects or damage. A ladder inspection is necessary upon receiving a new ladder, before each use, or after a ladder has fallen. Certain elements of the ladder to inspect include:
- Cracked or missing steps
- Splintered surfaces
- Loose nails, bolts, or nuts
- Corrosion or rust on treads
- Rotted rails
Correct Ladder Angles
A simple way to know if the ladder you are using is safely placed, adhere to the four-to-one rule. For every four feet of height you have to climb, the ladder should be one foot from the base of the wall. Following this rule ensures a steady ladder.
It is always best to have another person hold the bottom of the ladder to make certain the ladder does not fall. However, if another person is not available, place the feet of the ladder on firm, level ground to prevent the ladder from falling.
While climbing a ladder, it is important to maintain three points of contact. If the center of your body is parallel to the center of the ladder, you are climbing safely. If you are leaning off to the side or reaching for an item that is far from you, your center of gravity is not adjacent to the ladder and injuries are more likely to occur. If you need to use or transport tools that require more than one hand, ask for assistance.