Summer is a prime time for ladder-related injuries, according to industry research. The likelihood of having an accident involving a ladder increases from June to September, compared to winter months.
“More than 95 per cent of all ladder incidents are caused by the unsafe acts of users,” says Garry Turgeon, general manager of Featherlite Industries Ltd., a ladder manufacturer based in Aurora, Ontario. He says that major unsafe acts include: over-reaching or standing too high, which causes ladders to tip and users to loose balance; uneven footing, which may result in the ladder tipping sideways; and slippery footing, which may cause the ladder feet to slip out. All of these acts can result in a serious fall.
“Research shows that a high percentage of these incidents can be prevented by following safety instructions, including knowing how to select, set up, use and maintain ladders,” he says. “Our goal is to give consumers access to the information they need to avoid safety mishaps.”
The company offers safety advice through its company website (http://www.featherliteladders.com) and its toll-free Ladder Information Line at (800) 867-5233.
For starters, Turgeon offers the following tips to stay ladder safe this season:
- Use the right ladder for the job and inspect it before climbing. If it has worn, missing, broken or loose parts or fasteners, ask the manufacturer how to conduct repairs.
- Use glass fibre, not aluminum ladders, where there is a risk of contact with live wires, to avoid electrocution.
- Do not climb any ladder if you feel tired or weak or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Wear sturdy, non-slip shoes, keep the soles clean and free of mud, oil, etc., and ensure steps and rungs are clean.
- Make sure your ladder is set on dry, firm, level ground of equal bearing capacity; for example, don’t rest one ladder foot in a soft ground and the other on firm asphalt.
- Climb facing the ladder, maintaining three-point contact at all times.
- Don’t overreach; keep your belt buckle between the ladder side rails.
- Don’t climb onto a stepladder from above without someone on the ground holding it, as it may tip.
- Never climb above the second step of a stepladder from the top or stand on the ladder head, as you may lose your balance and fall.
- Always make sure a stepladder is opened fully and locked before climbing.
- For straight and extension ladders: use the picks (the saw-toothed end of a ladder’s swivel feet) when setting up on grass, gravel or softer surfaces and push them in as far as they will go; never set up on ice or frozen ground without anchoring the front of the ladder feet so they can’t move.
Set up straight or extension ladders with the feet positioned one foot out from the wall for every four feet of height to the upper, ladder support point and make sure the ground is level from side to side and front-to-back. Even a little out-of-level at the ladder feet is exaggerated by the ladder length, and as you climb, both the ladder and you may fall sideways.
“Ladder safety begins with the user,” Turgeon stresses. “It’s up to the user to constantly be alert to eliminate potential hazards before they climb.”
Founded in 1985 and based in Toronto, MRO Magazine is a bimonthly publication that serves machinery- and equipment-maintenance professionals across Canada.