Ladders are one of the most commonly used tools in homes and workplaces, allowing users to safety reach heights. Their simple design makes them easy to use, but their misuse has led the U.S. to be the world leader in ladder injuries. When ladders are not used correctly, the user can be seriously injured.
Most ladder accidents are avoidable and happen when users ignored the safety warnings or used the ladder improperly. The most common causes of ladder accidents are as follows:
- Improper placement of ladders: Failing to brace ladders or placing them at unsafe angles leaves the ladder unstable. Ladders should only be placed on firm, level and non slippery surfaces. Overreaching and failing to maintain three points of contact on ladders reduces the stability. If you have to reach, you need to climb down the ladder and move it. Do not attempt to reposition the ladder while you are standing on it.
- Using the wrong ladder: A person using a ladder that is not the right height or not the correct weight classification can lead to injury. When reviewing the weight limits, keep in mind that number includes your weight plus your clothing and any tools you are carrying or storing on the ladder.
- Using worn or damaged ladders: Using ladders that are missing pieces or hardware, or that have broken rungs or damaged sharp edges poses a threat for users. Extension ladders with mangled feet or broken extension locks should also not be used. If a ladder is damaged, it should be labeled “needs repair” and not used until it can be repaired. If it is not repairable, it needs to be discarded.
- Incorrect use: Modifying a ladder in any way is dangerous. You should never climb a closed stepladder. Ladders should not be used in place of scaffolding in situations when you are working at heights for a long time or when the used needs to stand sideways.
While most ladder safety is common sense, they can easily be misused. Those attempting to save time or effort by using ladders for makeshift purposes might find out the hard way that ladder safety should be taken seriously.