Ladders are simple devices—and that may be their biggest fault. Workers tend to mistake simplicity for harmlessness, often overlooking necessary precautions.
More precautions are necessary to stay safe on portable ladders than your employees might think.
For example, even before setting up a ladder, the site has to be checked for safety. Say the site includes a door that could be opened while someone’s up on the ladder. That door has to be locked or someone has to be on the other side to make sure nobody opens it.
Here’s another often-missed safety measure: The area around a ladder has to be clear of tools, materials, and debris that could make access hazardous. For example, a worker coming off a ladder could step on an obstacle and twist an ankle or take a tumble.
Workers also have to 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.
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Workers often forget to secure extension ladders at the top to prevent them from slipping—a common cause of accidents. The base also has to be secured against accidental movement or held firmly by a co-worker standing at the foot of the ladder facing it with a hand on each side rail and one foot resting on the bottom rung.
People sometimes forget about safety when using stepladders, too. 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. Both of these are dangerous practices and your ladder safety training has to address them.
Furthermore, workers must be trained to 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.
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And when using a ladder, workers must be taught to always keep three point contact, with two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
There’s a lot more to ladder safety than you might think. Make sure your workers get the full story.
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