As a tool, ladders have been around longer than the wheel, so you would think we would know how to safely use them at this point. And yet, we still experience an average of 2,000 injures EVERY DAY related to ladders.
I'm no exception; I used a plastic stool with visible cracks in the surface as "a ladder" to try to reach something in my garage this summer. As the stool exploded under my feet and I landed on my @ss, I realized how fortunate I was that my head didn't crack open like a melon on the cement garage floor. Thousands of others each year are not so lucky.
This month EHS Today focuses on the important issue of ladder safety: how to use them properly, how to inspect them and maintain them, why we need to choose the correct ladder for the job and a number of other important aspects of ladder safety.
"Some of the most common ways workers misuse ladders begin with selecting the incorrect ladder for the job at hand. The old rule of thumb, ‘use the right tool for the job,' applies to ladders like any other tool," says Chris Filardi, vice president of marketing at Werner Co. "The user needs to consider the best style, height and load capacity for the project."
According to Filardi, once that initial choice of the wrong ladder is made, "It's easy to accidentally perform many other ladder safety ‘no-no's,' including: placing the base of the ladder too close or far away from the working surface, over-reaching or leaning to one side, standing on a rung too high to be safe or attempting to move the ladder while standing on it."
National Ladder Safety Month is being promoted by ladder manufacturers like Werner and the American Ladder Institute (ALI). The goal is to heighten awareness, reinforce safety training and educate homeowners and working professionals about ladder safety. Much of the focus of the month's initiatives is on training for ladder users and for the workers designated as ladder inspectors. Safety training courses, industry-specific events and downloadable infographics, posters and graphics are available on LadderSafetyMonth.com.
Werner offers a number of ladder use and safety resources on its web site as well, as do other ladder manufacturers. Filardi says that in 2016, the Werner Co. team of end-user specialists and its online university hosted over 7,000 training events targeting everyone from individuals to groups of over 1,000 construction workers.
OSHA has made fall prevention in the construction industry a priority for several years in a row, asking construction companies to hold special "stand down" for fall safety events. In fact, ladder safety training has increased significantly in the past 15 years. And yet, falls and ladder-related incidents remain a daily occurrence and are the second-most costly injury to employers and workers. Why?
We've all seen workers using chairs as ladders, stacks of pallets as ladders and tables as ladders. We've seen them overreaching off the side of a ladder rather than climb down and move the ladder two feet. We've seen them prop up a too-short ladder and clamber over the top like a monkey to reach a roof a foot away.
So I asked Filardi: What gives? Why do we – the collective "we" – place our lives at risk around ladders?
"As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, take a moment to conduct a Google image search for the term ‘unsafe ladder use.' You'll find literally hundreds of outrageous photos of people that think they are being creative with ladders while putting their lives at risk," he says, adding: "Common sense is still one of the best tools to help people safely use ladders, but we recommend following strict rules on how to use ladders."
Hopefully, National Ladder Safety Month will bring increased awareness to the issue of ladder safety and to the toll that ladder-related incidents take on those who are injured.