Although the proper use of ladders is crucial throughout the year, March is the chosen month to underscore the importance of ladder safety. This awareness month also serves to remind those workers in North Carolina and across the country who have become complacent about the potential consequences of ladder accidents. Workers in all industries use ladders — from construction sites and fulfillment centers to office environments when a worker must pull a box of documents from the top shelf in the storeroom.
How safe are the ladders in your workplace? Does your employer provide safety training that covers inspection and identifying problems along with ladder choice? Safety authorities say most ladder accidents are preventable by compliance with safety standards.
Ladder safety tips
You can avoid becoming a statistic by using the right ladder for the job and taking the following precautions:
- Assuming a ladder is safe can jeopardize your safety. Always check that ladders have secure footing, and inspect ladders for bent supports, bent legs, broken, cracked or worn steps, and missing or worn rubber feet.
- Select a suitable ladder for the task instead of risking injury if you choose a stepladder that will require you to stand on the top rung instead of an extension ladder that is tall enough. Another danger involves electrocution hazards if you use a metal ladder near power lines or other electrical sources.
- Never lean a ladder against unstable objects, and avoid placing it in front of a door that could open at any time. Also, make sure to set the ladder on dry, even floor that is free of debris.
- Prevent the ladder from tipping by securing the top rung. Until this is done, it might be a good idea to ask a co-worker to hold the ladder’s base.
- Never carry materials, tools or equipment when you ascend or descend the ladder — hoisting it separately is the safest way to deal with such loads. Always face the ladder while using it, and make sure both hands are free to hold onto the edges of the ladder.
Do you know the belt buckle rule?
Safety advisers suggest you stop climbing a ladder when your belt buckle is level with the top rung of the ladder. They also suggest that you never climb a ladder without securely locking the frame in place.
Ladder safety is a numbers game
Learn the three-point-contact and the four-to-one rule whenever you work with ladders. The four-to-one rule determines the distance between the wall and the feet of the ladder. To calculate this, move the feet of the ladder one foot from the wall for every four feet of the wall’s height.
Comply with the three-point-contact rule when you ascend or descend the ladder. Always have two hands and one foot, or both feet and one hand in contact with the ladder.
Unfortunately, workplace accidents can occur at any time, and North Carolina workers are typically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of benefits claims. If your fall from a ladder resulted from a manufacturer’s defect, or any other safety violation by an independent third party, such as a contractor, your lawyer could examine the viability of a third-party civil lawsuit.