This story is actually more of an “accident prevented” case study. In my work as the national safety director (a.k.a. ladder safety guy), I hear a lot of heartbreaking stories. More sad than good for sure. So when I hear a happy story like this, I want to share it.
This story came to us from a safety inspector for a major, national satellite company (can’t tell you which one of course). I’m going to call him Jack. Well Jack was out and about checking on his technicians at various service calls. He pulled up to the this particular location and stayed in his car to watch what his guy was doing. The technician was at the top of a 28-footer installing a dish on a two-story house–probably 23-24 feet above a concrete pad. Everything looked good. The technician maintained his three points of contact, he had the ladder properly leveled and leaning against the roof line with a 75.5 degree angle lean. It all looked good. The technician had paid attention to his training and done everything right to put himself in a safe environment. But then the part of the environment over which he had no control threw him a curveball.
The curveball came in the form of a wheelbarrow full of rock driven by an inattentive (or extremely stupid) landscaper. The landscaper came trucking around the corner of the house, not pay attention to his surroundings, and rammed his wheelbarrow full of rock into the base of the 28-foot extension ladder. In that instant, Jack was sure he was going to watch one of his guys die on the job. He jumped out of his truck and sprinted to his white-faced, visibly shaking technician whose ladder hadn’t budged. Jack, who was just as shaken up, asked the tech if he was okay.
The technician said, “I’m so glad I was on this ladder. If I’d been on that old 28, I would’ve have been down for sure.”
You see, this tech had been field testing a new kind of extension ladder with retractable, leveling outriggers that more than doubled the base width of the ladder, making it vastly more stable side to side than an ordinary straight extension ladder. That kind of blow surely would have destabilized the feet of a old-style extension ladder.
Jack’s company, which takes the safety of its technicians very seriously, has since mandated that its entire fleet be outfitted with this outrigger style extension ladder, which is called the SumoStance extension ladder.
This is a case where training alone would not have been enough to get that technician home to his family. Thankfully, in this case, superior technology made up the difference.