Safety Precautions When Using Ladders

By Marie | January 20, 2014

Ladder SafetyThere’s a gambling superstition that if you pass under a ladder on your way to the casino, you should turn back and go home. It’s considered bad luck. Many would shrug it off as nonsense, but the number of accidents caused in the vicinity of ladders seems to confirm the myth.

Ladders and stepladders are involved in over one-third of all fall-from-height accidents in the UK. According to HSE figure, falls from ladders cause 1200 serious injuries and 14 deaths each year. Yet, there are few workplaces that don’t need or use ladders to stack and retrieve material and items from height. Looking at the ladder accidents more closely, it becomes evident that it’s not the ladders, but incorrect use of them that causes most of the workplace accidents.

If you are using a ladder that’s a little bit too short for the height you are working at or you have it leaning at an angle too shallow or steep, or you are trying to save some money by continuing to use an old and dilapidated ladder or stepladder, you are inviting accidents. Many of the falls occur because the base of the ladder slips on shiny warehouse floors. At other times, trying to climb or get down from steps or ladders carrying heavy weights or oddly figured objects can cause a person to lose balance and fall over.

Ladder and Warehouse-Step Safety Tips

One shouldn’t wait for an accident to happen before becoming cautious with ladders. HSE takes the ladders seriously and has published a handbook for employers to help them implement ladder and warehouse-step safety. Here are the steps you should take to ensure safety around ladders and warehouse-steps.

  1. HSE recommends using warehouse-steps or stepladders with stable bases instead of the conventional ladders, particularly in warehouses and commercial storage. Warehouse-steps obviate the possibility of the base of the ladder slipping. However, it is important to use the steps with proper height and weight specifications.

  2. Working for too long on a ladder can make you dizzy or tired enough to lose balance, though momentarily, but not without consequences. You should brief your workers not to work in one position on ladder/warehouse-steps for more than 30 minutes at a stretch.

  3. Where steps are not available or cannot be used for the lack of space, the ladder must be inclined at an angle of 75.5 degrees from the floor. If you’re not too brilliant with geometry, that’s a 4:1 ratio, which means that for every 4 feet of vertical height, the ladder’s feet or base should be placed 1 foot away from the wall or shelf.

  4. Always work in a position where you are maintaining 3 points-of-contact with the ladder—that are both your feet and one hand.

  5. Do not lean too far away from the vertical axis of the ladder, as you will be imposing angular loads which might cause the ladder or stepladder to slip; or you might lose your balance.

  6. Avoid climbing or work on a ladder holding an item with both hands. Use a tool belt to carry tools.

  7. Do not lift a weight exceeding 10 kilograms when you are working on a ladder or step-ladder. Make sure that the ladder has enough load capacity to hold your weight.

  8. With step-ladders or warehouse-steps, make sure that they are properly secured, have adequate height, and have no side-loads acting on them while you are at work.

  9. Never use a steel or aluminum ladder where live electricity wires are present in the vicinity. An accidental fall could cause short circuiting or electric shock, making your worst nightmares comes true.

Always use high-quality, safety-certified ware-house steps of proper specifications for preventing accidents and making your work environment more efficient, convenient and safe.

About the Author

Dr. Garry J McClean is the health and safety consultant for The Workplace Depot.

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