Toolbox Talk No.2 – Ladder Safety

Toolbox Talk No.2 – Ladder Safety

Bob FarrellOctober 29, 2018

According to the World Heath Organization, falls are the second leading cause of unintentional deaths in the world, second only to road traffic injuries. Furthermore, the CDC found that 43% of fatal falls at work in the last decade involved a ladder.

Ladders are a useful and necessary tool for many jobs, especially in the construction industry. Because of their prevalence, it is vital for every worker who may need to use a ladder to be properly trained on ladder safety. There are four main parts involved with using a ladder properly: inspecting the ladder before setting it up, setting it up correctly, climbing it safely, and taking it down.

Part 1. Inspecting The Ladder

What happens if you’re flying in a plane with a crack in it’s wings? If it is able to gain altitude at all, it would probably wind up crashing back to the earth. As a passenger, you hope to never find this out from a first-hand experience – the flight crew is expected to properly inspect the plane so it doesn’t fall out of the sky while you are inside it. Ladders cause far more deaths than airplanes annually, and require a similarly critical inspection before use.

When using a ladder, you may not be gliding tens of thousands of feet in the air, but you are at a height where falling can kill you. Therefore, it is critically important to inspect a ladder before setting it up to ensure it is equipped to bear your weight. Here’s a checklist of what you should look for when inspecting a ladder before use - if the answer to any of these questions is no, the ladder is not fit to climb and should be reported to the site supervisor.

Is every rung
      ✓ present and secured on the ladder?
      ✓ structurally sound, without cracks or visible damage?
      ✓ free of excess grease, oil, or any other slippery substance
Are the rails crack free on both sides?
If you are using an extension ladder, are the latches secured?
  If there are ladder feet, are they slip resistant & moving freely?
 

If you go through this checklist and answer yes to every question, then the ladder is most likely structurally sound and ready for use. Please note that this is a guideline created by Wryker, and your supervisor may have additional details to follow. It is always important to use your best judgement and tend towards caution when deciding if a ladder is fit for climbing.

 

Part 2. Setting Up The Ladder

Once you have determined that the ladder is fit to bear weight and be climbed safely, you are ready to set it up. Placing ladders properly makes them more stable, which makes climbing and descending more safe. The main points of concern with placing a ladder are the distance from the wall, length of ladder, and proper placement of the ladder feet.

Distance From Wall

For every four feet of building height, the ladder should be placed one foot back. The chart below is included for your quick reference.

Ladder Length

It is required to have three feet of ladder extend beyond the top of a building. If the ladder is not long enough for this, you must tie off the ladder and there must be a secure grab rail. Although it isn’t always practical to get a longer ladder, we highly recommend doing this whenever possible. You can also tie off ladders that meet the three foot extension for added precaution.

Proper Placement

Picking the ladder up and setting it against a building can be tricky. The main concern for this procedure is to avoid power lines and find firm ground to place the ladder onto. If you hit a power line with a metal ladder, your muscles will contract and you will not be able to let go. This is often a fatal accident. Nobody can help once someone holding a ladder is electrocuted because they will be electrocuted too.

With careful attention to electric cables in the area, you should find the best spot for the ladder to sit at the proper distance away from the building. Get help if the ladder is too heavy to move by yourself. Concrete or compact soil are ideal surfaces to place ladders with slip resistant feet. If the ladder does not have slip resistant feet, search for a location where you can dig a small trench for the base of the ladder to secure it against slipping. Avoid unstable rocks, loose sand, mud and ice, because these and similar conditions can cause the ladder to slip out from under you.

Ladder Placement

Guidelines

Building height

Distance from wall

Ladder Length

8’

2’

13’

12’

3’

16’

16’

4’

20’

20’

5’

24’

24’

6’

28’

 

 

Part 3. Climbing Properly

Falls from ladders take place during this step of the procedure. This is the most critical section to be aware of your surroundings, focused on the task at hand, and vigilant about your own safety. If weather conditions are variable, you can wait until they calm down before getting onto the ladder. Always put your personal protection first.

  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times (both feet and a hand)
  • Always keep at least one hand on the ladder
  • Face the ladder (chest toward the rungs) when climbing either direction
  • If a ladder is placed near an overhead power line, do not climb it.
  • PPE gear is recommended at all times when working on construction sites

If you are aware of your surroundings and intentionally climbing the ladder with best safety practices, you greatly increase the chances of it going smoothly. Reckless behavior on a ladder is extremely dangerous. It is not a common practice to tie off when climbing a ladder, so falling is risky and potentially fatal.

 

Part 4. Taking The Ladder Down

Your job with the ladder isn’t complete until the ladder is safely taken down and put away. Taking down a ladder is equally as dangerous as putting it up – power lines that may have posed an issue with placing the ladder should be considered carefully when taking the ladder down. If the ladder is too heavy for you to move individually, get help so the ladder is handled with care to prevent damage and injuries to fellow people on the job site.

Thank you for taking the time to review ladder safety. We hope you were able to refresh your skills and pick up a few new tips of the trade. Articles in Wryker’s Toolbox Talks provide best practices for the construction industry, but the ultimate guideline to behavior at work comes from your business and their safety procedures. When in doubt, always ask your safety manager for assistance.

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