Before I delve into what not to do when you are using a ladder, I should probably first point out how important it is to (a) inspect the ladder and (b) then use the ladder correctly to minimize the chance of an accident occurring. The first step with carrying out any work should be to access the work that needs to be done and then plan a way of carrying out this work in a safe manner.
Where a ladder is required, the following checks should be carried out:
- Check the feet of the ladder, and do not use it if they are damaged or missing, as this greatly increases the chance of the ladder slipping
- Inspect the rungs of the ladder and ensure that they are not damaged or bent in any way. Also ensure that they are connected securely to the stiles and there is no damage to the welds/joints. Ensure that there are no rungs missing, what you notice on the way up, you might not notice on the way down
- Check that the stiles are not kinked or damaged in any way as this could cause the ladder to buckle
- If the ladder has a platform, ensure that it is not buckled or split in any way
Correct Ladder Use
- Ensure the ladder is at the right pitch. The recommended pitch is 75%
- 3 points of contact is a minimum requirement i.e. Two feet and at least one hand on the ladder
- Do not lean off the side of the ladder, this could cause the ladder to slide and cause a fall
- Do not carry an awkward or heavy object as this will hamper your ability to maintain 3 points of contact and/or the ladder could buckle
- Attach the top of the ladder where necessary, or strap off to an anchor point from each side to stop the ladder moving
- Avoid walking on the top steps of a ladder, especially where the ladder extends beyond the roof line or pitching point
Okay, so those were some of the steps to ensuring your safety when using a ladder. So what should you not do?
Do not create a lethal structure using outdoor tables and concrete blocks, and then place your ladder on top of these…
Do not balance your ladder on top of a bin. Best case scenario: the feet of the ladder go through the bins lid, and you land in a bin. Worst case scenario: the bottom of the ladder slides out and you scrape your face the whole way down the wall, before hitting the bin on your way to the concrete.
Okay, so apart from the JCB possibly moving, this man would still be taking an incredible risk. I have been on site with many good JCB and forklift drivers in the past and there isn’t one that I would trust with my life. All it takes is to nudge one lever accidentally in the cab for a disaster to occur.
It’s a long way down! Apart from the distance to the ground, the ladder is not at 75°, and there would be a lot of pressure at its middle point as it was ascended. If the danger wasn’t great enough, the worker is at the very top of the ladder and is not holding on with either hand.
This image makes me dizzy. One foot on the ladder, one foot on the scaffolding. There is a very good chance that the ladder will be pushed away by the workers foot. If this catches him unaware, a nasty fall could be outcome.
This is one of my favourites. Electrocution and drowning are the obvious risks here, rather than being hurt by the impact of a fall. Apart from the dust which will be landing directly into the pool, one slip with that electric drill and the worker will be fried.
There are many variations out there of this picture, as many others seem to like this technique. Dangerous enough being over the stairs, but to reach the top he will probably have to proceed to the top half of the ladder, which will mean he has no handholds.
Although the dangers in each of the above pictures are pretty obvious the moment you set eyes on them, we are all guilty of taking chances from time to time, either in the workplace or domestically. The main reason for this is to get the job done as quickly as possible, while assuming that an accident won’t occur because you are aware of the hazard. What should happen is that the hazard should be eliminated entirely.
The second problem which people encounter is not having the right equipment for the job at hand. This can include not having a ladder the right size, not having scaffolding erected or not having access to a Mobile Elevated Work Platform. This can come down to cutting corners with price in mind, as sometimes the work to be carried out is a one-off job. Even so, there are often more sensible solutions available. Solutions which dramatically cut down on the risk.
For more frequent access to areas which are dangerous due to exposed edges at height, it may be more practical to install a long-term solution. Access from on the roof could be made safer by installing a section of guardrail or cable system. Where access is required from ground level, scaffolding, access platforms, building maintenance units and appropriate ladders are some of the options available.