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August 28, 2006
Almost All Ladder Accidents Are Preventable

You can easily prevent ladder accidents because most of them are caused either by risky behavior or faulty set-up of ladders. Fortunately, both of these mistakes can be corrected with a simple training session.

Make sure employees understand the rules for safe ladder setup:

  • Place the ladder on a firm, level surface, and check to make sure it's stable. Use wide boards under a ladder if the ground is soft.
  • Never set up a ladder in front of a door unless the door is locked or someone is posted on the other side to keep people from opening it while you're up on the ladder.
  • Never lean a ladder against a window or any other surface that isn't strong enough to support the weight of a person.
  • Never lean a ladder against a surface that might move.
  • Make sure the spreaders on a stepladder are fully extended and locked in place.
  • Be certain locking devices on extension ladders are secure before climbing.

And be sure to stress these special rules for setting up extension ladders:

  • Secure the ladder top and bottom to make sure it doesn't shift while you are on it. (This is one of the most common reasons for ladder accidents and injuries.)
  • Have at least 3 feet of extension above the support point.
  • Make sure that the upper section of an extension ladder overlaps and rests on the bottom section. The overlap should always be on the climbing side of the ladder. For ladders of 36 feet or more, the overlap should be least 3 feet.

Also be sure to

Why It Matters...
  • Falls from ladders kill hundreds of workers every year.
  • Many thousands more suffer serious, sometimes disabling, injuries that can keep them out of work for a long time.
  • Some workers might even be permanently disabled and never able to return to their regular jobs.

train employees to follow these safety rules when climbing and working on ladders:

  • Check your shoes before you climb, and wipe off wet, muddy, or greasy soles.
  • Allow only one person on a ladder at a time.
  • Face the ladder when you go up or down, holding on to the side rails with both hands as you climb.
  • Don't climb higher than the fourth rung from the top on a straight or extension ladder or the second step from the top on a stepladder.
  • Carry tools up on a belt or shoulder strap, or hoist them up once you're in place atop the ladder. Then keep them in a hanger or holder while you work.
  • Keep one hand on the ladder while you work.
  • Move slowly and cautiously.
  • Keep your body centered on the ladder as you work (a good rule of thumb is to keep your belt buckle between the rails).
  • Don't overreach—take the time to get down and move the ladder instead.
  • Never reposition a ladder while you're on it.
  • Be extra careful when using a ladder outdoors in very windy conditions.
  • Never slide down a ladder.
  • Never climb a ladder if you are very tired, feeling ill, taking medication that affects alertness, or impaired by alcohol or drugs.

And don't forget to remind your workers to always choose the right ladder for the job (right height and weight capacity) and inspect it carefully before use to make sure it's in good, safe condition.

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