Working at Height – Using Ladders Safely
Ladders are great tools in any workspace as they allow you to reach high spaces with ease. However, it is quite common for accidents to occur due to improper usage. Although ladders are a basic tool which looks almost intuitive and simple to use them, most workplaces misuse them, causing workers to get hurt. To help you make the most of a ladder and prevent injuries from taking place, here is a complete guide on how to use a ladder safely.
Common workplace accidents due to misuse of ladders
As explained above, most of the workplace accidents/injuries take place due to the misuse of ladders. This means that many of us actually do not know how to use a ladder properly or do not meet safety guidelines when using them. Here are some of the common reasons which create the conditions for accidents to happen:
When you use a ladder that is too short, you tend to extend your body as much as possible. If you extend or lean your body too much, there is a very high chance of falling and getting injured. Another problem with using ladders of the wrong height is that most of us tend to step on the highest rung of the ladder. When doing so, you would have nothing to hold on to and this puts you at a great risk of falling. When you are unable to reach a particular area, you should either change the position of the ladder or get another ladder of a more suitable height.
Placing ladders on unstable surfaces
You have to place ladders on surfaces that are firm and level. If you place a ladder in an area where it is unstable due to obstructions or uneven surfaces, there is a high possibility of falling as the unstable ladder can cause you to lose balance and fall. Ensure that the ladders are not rocky or wobbly before getting on them.
Failure to secure rubber feet/lock spreaders of ladder
If you use the ladder without checking whether the lock spreaders or any other locking mechanism are engaged securely, it may collapse as you climb up. Also, the rubber feet come with slip-resistant properties, keeping the ladder safe on various surfaces. Not having the rubber feet attached to the ladder will cause the ladder to be unstable.
Besides the rubber feet, it is also important to ensure that the rungs you are stepping and climbing on are slip-resistant. The rungs have very little surface area so a misstep or getting your footing wrong can cause you to slip and fall. Therefore, apply slip-resistant treads to your ladders are important.
Check your ladder before use
Before using your ladder, make sure that you check these parts of the ladder and ensure that they met safety guidelines:
It is important that you check the condition of the stiles to ensure that they are not damaged or bent to stop the ladder from collapsing. The stiles should be stable and should hold the weight of both the ladder itself as well as the user.
Check the feet of ladder
If the feet is damaged, worn, or missing, the ladder will be prone to slipping. When you move the ladder from dirty/soft ground, it is important to clean and remove the dirt from the feet. Also, make sure that they have anti-skid grips for better stability on smooth surfaces.
Check the rungs
The rungs should not be loose, missing, worn, or bent as it makes the ladder vulnerable to breaking. As mentioned above, ensure that there is adequate slip protection as it provides an additional layer of safety. It is slip resistant so it ensures that the user does not fall off easily.
Check locking mechanisms
The locking mechanisms should be in good working condition. You should be able to engage the locking bars at all times. Ensure that you check that they are working well and are not worn or damaged.
Check for damages, cracks, defects
Carefully inspect the ladder for defects, cracks, and damages as they make the ladder unsafe. It is important not to ignore them and to get the ladders fixed or replaced as soon as possible.
The handrails should be sturdy and attached safely. They must be able to provide an adequate handhold for users to grasp on to for stability as well as to prevent falls.
Set-up for ladders
To use a ladder properly, it is paramount that you set it up properly. Here are three things to keep in mind to set-up ladders:
Ensure that there is enough space to fully open the ladders
It is vital that you have adequate space to open the ladders completely. Without enough space for a stable base for the ladder to rest on, it makes the ladder unstable and shaky. Ensure that there are no obstructions near the ladder as it adds to the instability. Also, prevent placing the ladder in places where people walk frequently. The reason is that it increases the chances of accidents and injuries taking place.
Use locking devices
All the locking devices such as the mechanism for the spreaders and bar should be in place. These mechanisms will keep the ladder stable as you use it.
Ground should be firm, hard and level
The ground where you keep the ladder should be firm, hard, and level as it is the best surface to keep the tool stable at all times.
Get an adjustable ladder if you are required to work on uneven surfaces. The Pica Adjustable Work Platform DWX-6908C comes with adjustable and expandable legs. This helps to level the ladder on uneven ground safely. The platform top allows you to work at height in a stable and secure manner while providing comfort due to its large surface area.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind when using ladders:
Placing the ladder at the right angle is crucial as it makes the ladder safe and secure. Follow this simple four-to one-rule to get the correct angle. For every four feet of height that you have to climb, the base of the ladder should be placed one feet away from the wall that it would be leaning on.
In addition to this, it is important to keep the ladder close to the area of work. This prevents the user from overreaching or leaning their body much which can cause discomfort to the user and instability. When needed, move the ladder instead to a more comfortable position.
Three-point contact ladder
At all times, there should be three points of contact between your body and the ladder. In other words, either one foot and both hands or one hand and both feet have to be placed on the ladder when you use it. Also, use both hands when climbing to ensure that you maintain a firm grip on the ladder at all times.
Always face forward
Avoid turning around or looking sideways as it is easy to lose balance and fall. The best way is to face toward the ladder and keep your body centered between side rails especially when climbing up or down.
Your hands should be free and should not be holding on to any items so that you can hold the ladder firmly while climbing. If you have to carry heavy items, use a rope bucket to lift them up.
Do not work off top three rungs
The top two rungs of the ladder exist only to provide stability. Working on them isn’t a good idea as you shouldn’t be standing on them. From the top of the ladder, the third rung is the last one you can climb.
After-use of ladders
Follow these instructions to safely keep ladders after usage as well as to maximize the lifespan of your ladder:
Do not leave ladders unattended
Avoid leaving ladders unattended as it is considered as a safety hazard. Prevent unsupervised or unauthorized usage of ladders by putting them away in safe place.
Store away in a safe place
Always store the ladder in a safe place, out of sight to prevent workers from tripping by accident. This also prevents the ladder from falling over, which could potential hurt someone.
Ensure that it is clean and dry
Make sure that the ladder is clean and dry after using the ladder to prevent it from getting damaged. This includes keeping them free from grease, oil, paint and other slippery material.
Keep them as compact as possible
As ladders are huge and bulky, they occupy a lot of storage space. It is a good practice to keep them as compact as possible by leaning them against the wall horizontally or by its side.
A great ladder that can be kept in a small and compact manner is the Louison Aluminium Telescopic Straight Ladder LTS09. It is an extendable and retractable ladder which is great for use in small spaces. It can also be easily carried and stored away.
Using Ladders Safely at the Workplace
Ladders are one of the most frequently used equipment in the workplace – be it in the office, warehouse or at a production plant. Accidents and injuries derived from wrong or unsafe usage of ladders are often preventable. Therefore, it is important to ensure that safety precautions and practices are exercised by everyone in the office.
For other safety guides and practices, check out this 13-step guideline to ensure worksite safety.