It’s no surprise that work-related falls, including those from ladders, may account for most on-the-job injuries.
According to OSHA, falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.
But these falls aren’t only happening at the workplace. In the United States, more than 500,000 people per year are treated — and about 300 people die — from ladder-related injuries. The estimated annual cost of ladder injuries in the U.S. is $11 billion, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As we gear up for the holiday season, attics are opening, lights are being hung and rooftops adorned with snowmen and an occasional jolly man, as many begin to prepare their homes for guests, decorations and more.
Falls from ladders can happen anywhere, anytime and to the most cautious user. At the workplace or at home, avoid injuries by following these five basic ladder safety tips:
1. Check your equipment.
Before climbing on any ladder, it is important to check your equipment — including the ladder’s recommended usage and instruction labels for weight restrictions and height uses/requirements.
Ensure you’re on level ground and that the ladder is operating correctly. Note the highest acceptable step and make sure your ladder is tall enough (three feet taller than your required elevation) so you aren’t tempted to use the top step, which should be avoided.
2. Review your surroundings.
If you’re using your ladder outside, check local reports for weather or wind, or other potentially dangerous conditions that can hinder your ability to correctly use your ladder. When inside, set up the ladder away from doors or other hazards that could cause a fall.
Keep your working area clear of clutter or debris, including decorations, tools or other materials.
3. Trust in teamwork.
Sure, you could handle moving heavy boxes from an attic alone, or hang those 50 feet of lights, but why not have some help? While it is never recommended to have more than one person on a ladder at a time, have a spotter or base at the bottom of the ladder to hold your position and ensure you’re level. They can keep an eye on things from a perspective you don’t have when you’re engaged in your work.
To keep the top of your ladder clear of unattended tools, use your spotter to hold or assist with handing up necessary equipment.
4. Keep calm. And still.
Anytime you’re working on a ladder, be aware of your movements and body position. Never use your body weight to shift or walk a ladder when standing on it. It may take more time, but face the ladder and climb down, and always reposition from the ground rather than while on the ladder. Maintain a 3-point contact (hold on with two hands on either side of the ladder and both feet secure) for balance and remember not to lean too far or reach too high.
5. Enjoy your work!
When you’re done, immediately put away your ladder first, before other tools. Then sit back, relax and toast your hard work with a mug of eggnog!