Ladder Safety, One Step at a Time

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Have you ever seen one of your family members or neighbors at the top of a ladder not being very safe? Maybe they were painting, taking leaves out of the gutters or cleaning windows, but they were making you nervous just watching them! Well, I’ve felt that quick moment of panic as I’ve seen some people misstep or reach too far and start to lose balance. At that point, I’m running over to the bottom of the ladder hoping I’m in time to steady it and prevent a fall.

Some of you may have been on a ladder recently doing house projects with this extra time on your hands. I can’t tell you enough how important ladder safety is, and how the simplest safety tips can be the difference between a successful task done and an unfortunate event.

Ladder safety is probably one of the most prominent exposures I see at job sites I have visited as a loss control specialist. It’s really tragic when you hear about someone who has fallen and suffered a serious injury or worse. Here are some injury facts: In 2017, 36,338 people died from falls at home or at work. Taking the time to practice ladder safety is an essential part of not only job safety but home safety, too.

Our friends at the National Safety Council have put together a good list. Here are some of the several recommendations for ladder use.

Climb with Care. Sometimes when people use ladders frequently both at work or home, they run the risk of becoming complacent. Make sure when you step on that ladder, you are mindful of the task at hand, have reviewed labels on the ladder and confirmed that the ladder is in good condition.

Choose the Correct Ladder for the Job. Picking the wrong ladder can be dangerous. Think about how high you need to reach, how much weight will the ladder need to hold, and what is the environment in which the ladder will be used. Also, check for any of those electrical lines overhead.

Start with a Firm Foundation. No matter what kind of ladder you’re are using, place the base on a firm, solid surface and avoid slippery, wet, and soft surfaces.

OSHA offers a comprehensive list for ladder safety. Below are a few examples from the OSHA site:

  1. Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing.
  2. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
  3. Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.

Reviewing one of the many safety checklists offered about ladder safety gives new insight into things folks might not have thought of. Knowing what ladder to use, how to climb it, what shoes to wear, and how to hold the ladder are just a few things to know.

Years ago, I use to work with my father doing all kinds of things with ladders around our house. I can remember watching my brother get cute with one and go backward from the wall of the back of the house and straight into the pool. Luckily, the pool was there. I still remember my father saying over and over, “It’s so much better to be safe than sorry.” Those words still ring true today.

Please be smart when it comes to ladder safety, and best of luck with all your future house projects involving a ladder. Be safe, not sorry!

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