The two best ways to prevent ladder accidents are to provide better safety training and design safer products.
If you are interested in free, online ladder safety training, visit www.laddersafetytraining.org. If you are more interested in live training, Dave Francis, our national safety director, travels around the country training various groups on proper ladder use. If you are interested in registering for that, visit www.laddersafetyhub.com.
Ladders Designed with Safety in Mind
Although it is extremely important, training alone is not enough. Even an experienced, well-trained pro can have a ladder accident on a poorly designed traditional ladder. Better, safer designs have hit the market and will help prevent the kind of ladder accidents that “just happen.” Designing safer ladders is also necessary to help prevent workers from using the ladder incorrectly.
The following are the three major causes of ladder accidents and how new ladder innovations are reducing injuries.
1. Repeated handling of heavy climbing equipment. Back and shoulder injuries caused by moving and setting up heavy ladders are usually not too serious, but they are the most common injury type, costing as much as $75,000 per incident in lost time and actual costs.
Using advances in fiberglass-resin composites and engineering design, Little Giant has reduced the weight of a traditional extension ladder by up to 25 percent without reducing its strength. Reducing the weight of the ladder, along with training in proper technique, reduces this common injury.
2. Using the wrong ladder for the job. Using a ladder that is too short for the job at hand, or using a stepladder and leaning it against the wall like an extension ladder are proven to lead to accidents. These accidents are often serious since they often end with a broken bones or permanent disability.
Multipurpose ladders can adjust to many different situation to provide a safe, stable solution.
3. Falls from overreaching. These are the most serious type of ladder accidents, often resulting in disability or death. Instead of climbing down and moving the ladder over a few feet, some operators reach just a little too far and cause their ladder to tip. Uneven ground makes overreaching even more dangerous. Just 1 inch out of level at the bottom of a 28-foot ladder will cause the top of the ladder to be 16 inches off center, throwing your center of gravity completely outside the base footprint of the ladder and increasing the likelihood of a deadly side-tip fall. Adding levelers to the ladder can help to alleviate this concern but does not protect operators when they overreach, which they always do.
Recently, a new extension ladder design with retractable wide-stance outriggers has been proven to increase side-to-side stability by 600 percent. And because no job site is perfectly level, these outriggers double as levelers to adjust to uneven ground.
We get so used to using ladders every day that sometimes we get complacent and don’t pay close attention to what we’re doing. We need to remember that ladders are inherently dangerous, and using them incorrectly or using the wrong ladder for the job can result in serious injury.
Every day, more than 500 people go to the hospital because of a ladder-related accident; 25 of those people are permanently disabled, and one of them dies. A combination of better safety training and the introduction of ladders designed to be safer will literally prevent injuries and save lives.
This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
About the Author
David Francis is the national safety director for Little Giant Ladder Systems. For more information on ladder safety or to schedule a free safety training session, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.littlegiantladders.com or www.laddersafetyhub.com.