For construction workers in particular, ladder falls pose a serious daily threat. Ladders see extensive use in potentially chaotic settings, and falls can prove incredibly dangerous, even from the shortest ladders. It’s not just a fall off of a 30-foot ladder that workers have to worry about. Falling from a 5-foot ladder while installing a light, for instance, can lead to serious back, neck and head injuries. Some of these “short” falls even take lives.
The key, then, isn’t to limit exposure. Workers must use ladders and they must face some risks. Instead, the key is to figure out why ladder falls happen so as to make their use safer.
1. Using the wrong ladder
One potential reason for a ladder fall is when the worker does not have the right one for the job. For instance, maybe it’s a 5- or 6-foot ladder, but the worker has to stand near the top and stretch to reach the place they need to work. Often, workers feel pressure to do the job in an unsafe manner since going to find a longer ladder takes precious time, but stretching from a ladder that is too short is very dangerous.
2. The ladder isn’t anchored
One of the best ways to ensure security is to anchor a ladder. You can do this on the bottom and the top. This prevents the ladder from tipping backward if the worker becomes unbalanced or from slipping away from the wall if it did not get set up at the proper angle. Again, the only real reason not to anchor a ladder for every job is time.
3. Workers try to carry too much
Workers should keep both hands and feet on the ladder the entire time that they’re climbing. Unfortunately, they often have to carry tools and materials with them. This is why proper training and equipment are so important. Workers need to have the right gear so that they can carry tools on their belts and vests, and they need training so that they know how to safely transport loads without letting go of the ladder.
These mistakes that lead to ladder falls are not all on the employees. Many of them face outside pressure from employers who want them to work quickly. Others get unsafe orders. Still others lack the training and equipment needed to work safely, but they still feel like they have to do the job. Employers need to remember their own role in safety and work with employees to prevent accidents.