Life has its ups and downs. However, the downs can be especially painful. Here are some ways to avoid those dangers — and reduce the risk to your business:
- Have ladders inspected before every use and, if defective, taken out of service. The inspection should look for cracks, wood splinters, or moving parts that bind or are disconnected or misaligned, together with worn ropes on extension ladders. Your workers don’t want to find out about them eight feet in the air. Have steps or rungs checked for looseness and cleaned of slippery spots. Make sure that workers wear shoes with nonslip surfaces.
- Make sure that stepladders are stored upright, with simple and extension ladders stored flat, so they don’t warp with age. It’s also okay to store ladders horizontally on wall hooks.
- Transporting ladders takes special care. The old silent movie sight gag about carrying a ladder so that the back end swings around and whacks people holds true. Always have workers maintain clear vision of the entire length of the ladder and beyond — and, if the ladders are carried on a vehicle, double-check the mountings.
- Before workers put the ladder in place, have them scan the location; be sure that both feet are on firm ground; and avoid power lines, or leaning the ladder on any unstable surface.
- Train workers to observe the “1 to 4” rule: Placing the ladder horizontally one-quarter of its vertical length, so a 12-foot ladder should be 3 feet from the wall. If they’re using an extension ladder, keep 3 feet of overlap between sections. It’s also wise to tie the ladder’s top and bottom to fixed points so that it won’t move.
- When it’s time to climb, make sure that workers who carry equipment up always wear a tool belt and maintain three-point contact with the ladder (both hands and one foot, or both feet and one hand). Never allow workers to go above three rungs from the top, and require them to come down and move the ladder if the work is beyond their reach.
- Finally, make sure that your workers learn the bear climb: With the right foot and hand moving simultaneously, followed by the left hand and foot. This might feel funny at first — but it can help save lives and avoid serious injury.