Ladders are simple devices – and that might be their biggest fault. Workers tend to mistake simplicity for harmlessness, often overlooking necessary precautions. Even before setting up a ladder, the worker needs to check the site for safety. If the site includes a door that could be opened while someone’s up on the ladder, the door has to be locked or someone has to be on the other side to make sure nobody opens it.
The area around the ladder must be clear of tools, materials, and debris that could make access hazardous. For example, a worker coming off a ladder might step on an obstacle and twist an ankle or take a tumble.
Workers must also make sure the top of a straight or extension ladder rests against a solid surface that can withstand the load, avoiding windows and other objects that could give way as the worker climbs.
Workers often forget to secure extension ladders at the top to prevent them from slipping – a common cause of accidents. They should secure the base against accidental movement or have it held firmly by a co-worker at the foot of the ladder facing it with a hand on each side rail and one foot on the bottom rung.
People sometimes forget about safety when using stepladders. For example, they might not bother to make sure braces are locked and the ladder is stable so that it can’t tip over as they climb. Employees sometime place a stepladder on top of something else to gain height – or they might lean an unopened stepladder against the wall and try to climb it.
Make sure that workers guard or place barriers around the ladder work area if there are other people around. Failure to do so could result in a “struck-by” accident if a worker on a ladder drops a tool or materials on someone passing below.
When using a ladder, workers must be taught to always keep three-point contact, with both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
Make sure your workers get the full story.