Preventing ladder related injuries
Do you really know how to use a ladder safely?
The number of falls from ladders in Australia is substantial and an increasing cause of emergency department presentations and hospitalisations. Over a ten-year period, there were over 40,000 hospitalised falls from ladders.
It’s therefore important to learn about injury prevention and safe usage methods so you can reduce the risk of a ladder-related fall.
Of the 5000 ladder injury hospitalisations in Australia per year, 80% are not work-related and over 95% occur at home. This comes as no surprise as homeowners need to carry out home maintenance and gardening tasks on their property. Unlike a work environment that conducts proper training, many homeowners have not been trained on how to use a ladder safely.
The most common contributing factor is reaching excessively or incorrect ladder placement. Half the hospitalisations are related to the instability of the ladder falling sideways or tilting inwards or outwards. Sadly, as we get older, the risk of a ladder injury significantly increases, with some ladder-related accidents causing major head injuries and resulting in death.
The following post discusses how to use a ladder safely so you can prevent yourself from becoming another statistic.
Do not position your ladder:
> On glass or unstable surfaces
> Where it can be knocked or bumped
> On a side or back slope
> Where it can be hit by any type of vehicle
> Within 3 metres of overhead power lines
Correct ladder placement:
> Both feet are on a firm dry footing which is stable and debris free
> Both feet have non-slip grip
> The height must be correct. The ladder should extend 1 metre beyond a roof or platform edge.
> The angle must be correct. 1:4 ratio is recommended (base width:height)
> It is stable and secure with ropes, ties and or clamps
> Step Ladders are open completely and firmly locked in place
Correct ladder placement:
> When climbing or descending maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder- two feet and one hand for example.
> Keep your body in the middle of the ladder to maintain balance.
> Always face the ladder and grip the ladder rungs, not the side rails.
> Don’t use the top 3 rungs of the ladder.
> Watch where you place your feet at the bottom, don’t miss the bottom rung.
> Don’t overreach. Only work on a job within easy arm’s reach.
> Don’t carry heavy or awkward shaped items on a ladder. Get them hoisted up to your required spot.
> Carry smaller items up in a pocket, tool belt or pouch.
> Avoid tools which require a high degree of leverage.
General ladder safety
In case of bad weather, don’t use your ladder at all. Storms, high winds, rain and other situations can create a very risky situation. Grounds can get slippery, as can the ladder surface. Winds can blow you and or your ladder over. It’s best to descend your ladder straight away and wait until the weather conditions are safe to return to your job.
As with any home maintenance or construction projects, general safety rules apply. Use your common sense and avoid using any equipment if you are ill, have medical conditions, or have taken medications. Any of these could compromise your safety.
Now you know how to prevent yourself from ladder-related injuries, go forth confidently and get cracking on those jobs you’ve been putting off. Work safely using ladders and avoid being another preventable hospitalisation.