How You Can Work Safer on a Ladder
March is Ladder Safety Month. Here are some important ladder safety reminders to avoid accident and injury.
- By Madison Francis
- Mar 10, 2020
When it comes to safety, either on the job, in the home or on the go, it isn’t something to take lightly. The same is true for ladder safety, which is why in the month of March, the American Ladder Institute hosts Ladder Safety Month. In celebration or this important month of safety, Little Giant Ladder Systems compiled the top tips for safer ladder usage.
Start with the Basics
At some point, you may have used a ladder incorrectly, even if it was only something you did as a child. Over the years, safety administrations, employers and ladder manufacturers alike have made it a priority to improve education regarding ladder safety to help keep others safe. Why? Because using a ladder incorrectly can come with a steep cost: injury or even death. If you aren’t using your ladder the right way, you put yourself and others at risk.
So, to simplify the learning curve, we have narrowed down the basics of ladder safety, which includes:
- Having the right ladder for the job
- Maintaining three points of contact
- Not overreaching
- The 4-1 ratio
- Ladder leveling
- Ladder inspection
- Electrical conductivity
- Watching your step
Having the Right Ladder for the Job
You wouldn’t use a step stool to reach a roof, and you wouldn’t use an extension ladder to reach a standard doorframe, so why would you use the wrong ladder for any other task? It’s important to familiarize yourself with your ladder, its size and its use, so you can work safer and more efficiently.
If at any point during the project, you realize that you are using the wrong kind of ladder, stop use and find one that is appropriate for the task at hand. Furthermore, if you find yourself reaching for something that isn’t a ladder when climbing, like a chair, shelf or cabinet, stop and grab the proper ladder for your job. Remember, no amount of inconvenience in grabbing a different ladder is ever worth risking your safety. Your employer, your family and your friends will thank you for it.
Maintaining Three Points of Contact
When you’re working at the top of a ladder, it is imperative to maintain three points of contact with the ladder. Typical points of contact include the hands, feet or knees, meaning you should have both feet firmly planted on the ladder, with a hand or your knees resting on the ladder for stability. When you lose your third point of contact, you are more likely to lose balance, which can result in an injury.
Overreaching. This seemingly innocuous action leads to the most severe and catastrophic ladder-related injuries. It also directly correlates to the point above—maintaining three points of contact. When you don’t maintain three points of contact, you are more likely to overreach, and when you overreach, your ladder loses balance. As frustrating as it may be to climb to the bottom of the ladder, just to reset it and climb back up, it is so important. While at the top of the ladder, a good rule of thumb is to keep your belt buckle between the rails. If you find that your belt buckle is beyond the side rails, you have reached too far.
The 4-1 Ratio
When using an extension ladder, remember this ratio: for every four feet of ladder length, the base of the ladder needs to be pulled one foot away from the wall. This ratio keeps your ladder stable as you climb and prevents the ladder from sliding out.
Here’s a tip to make sure you have the right ratio. With your ladder leaned against the surface, face your ladder, placing your toes against the it. Reach your arms to shoulder height. If your ladder is in the right position, you should be able to touch the rungs of your ladder without adjusting. If this isn’t your experience, adjust your ladder and try again.
Have you ever climbed a ladder, just to find you felt a little off-centered? Not only is that a frustrating situation to work around, but it also is unsafe. If a ladder is unlevel by just 1-inch at the base, it can cause a 9-inch lean at the top of a 19-foot ladder. That’s significant, especially if you are working on a ladder that is taller than that.
It is normal at a job site, to not work on level ground. It happens, especially if you are working outdoors. So, if your ladder is unlevel, rather than climbing unevenly or finding something to place under your ladder, we recommend using an integrated leg leveler that can stabilize and level the ladder for safe climbing.
Before using your ladder, it is important to inspect it, especially if you aren’t the only person using the ladder. Check it for dents, cracks and fiberglass bloom. Look at the treads on the feet of the ladder, too, to ensure that your ladder is safe for use. If your ladder is damaged or questionable, do not use it. Your safety matters, and a damaged ladder puts your safety at risk.
The job you are working on affects your ladder needs, and not just the size or shape of the ladder. The material matters, too. For most tasks, an aluminum ladder is ideal; however, if you are working around electricity, you need to use a fiberglass ladder, instead. Unlike its aluminum counterpart, fiberglass ladders are non-conductive, making them the safer choice when working with electricity. Fiberglass ladders do have a caveat, though. If your fiberglass ladder has experienced fiberglass bloom, from sun or heat damage, your ladder becomes more conductive, when wet.
Watching Your Step
Have you ever missed the bottom rung or step of your ladder when you are descending it? You’re not alone in that. Studies have shown that 20 percent of ladder-related injuries occur from missing the final rung of the ladder. Be mindful of your footing as you descend your ladder and double-check your place on the ladder before stepping off. Furthermore, using a ladder with an integrated bottom rung alert is helpful in boosting your safety as you work.
Overall, if you follow these basic ladder safety tips, you will be able to avoid OSHA citations regarding ladder usage and will also be on the right track to working safer, so you can return home safely to friends and family each night.
Follow along with Ladder Safety Month throughout March. If you would like to learn more about ladder safety or see more of Little Giant’s tips for safer climbing during Ladder Safety Month, follow along at https://littlegiantladders.com/blog/.