Increasingly more home owners are looking to themselves to achieve their dream home. Do-it-yourself home projects are a more cost effective way of renovating which is why it has become extremely popular around the globe. The multitude of do-it-yourself television shows, magazines and websites with instructional videos springing up over the years has also encouraged people to take on these home renovations.
One thing that’s blatantly clear about most of these programs, videos and magazines is that they emphasize the ease with which you can undertake these projects and often downplay the risks. Not many resources I’ve come across mentioned the importance of safety when undertaking home renovations, especially for amateurs.
Common accidents that do occur when people undertake home renovations include falls from heights, injuries sustained from power tools and electrical injuries. But while amateur home renovators’ lack of experience may put them at risk of injuries, they aren’t the only ones at risk. Even experienced tradespeople find themselves suffering from injuries due to these reasons.
One of the biggest risks for amateur home renovators and experienced tradespeople alike is work from heights and work from ladders in particular. If people who work with ladders on a daily basis are commonly injured, imagine how important an issue ladder safety is for the rest of us?
Importance of Safety Procedures When Working with Ladders
Consider the fact that in the United States, three of the most common workplace safety violations relate to falls and each day at least 2000 people are injured while using a ladder – an amazing statistic!
Of these 2000 injured people, at least 100 suffer a long-term or permanent disability and one person will lose their life. It’s clear that when working with ladders, safety procedures aren’t optional – they’re a must if you want to avoid injury.
Statistics show that at least 300 people annually die as a result of a ladder accident and as if that wasn’t bad enough, more than 1000 people in the US suffer serious injury due to ladder accidents.
The statistics quoted above hammer home the point that ladder safety is one of the most important areas of safety awareness in the construction industry.
Indeed in all major developed countries, construction standards and mandatory safety training include references to the different aspects of ladder safety. In the US, there are the OSHA Regulations (3124-12R 2003) and training which have a whole section on “Stairways and Ladders”. In the UK, the construction industry mandatory training, which includes content on ladder safety and working from heights, is called the “Construction Skills Certification Scheme” and construction workers are required to hold the appropriate type of Card to identify that they have completed the training. Likewise in Australia all types of construction workers are required to undertake the mandatory construction induction course which is known as the “White Card”, which also contains similar content on working from heights and ladder safety.
Unfortunately familiarity on the work site can often lead to complacency and this is especially true of seemingly “simple to use” and perceived “basic” equipment like ladders. Often we see an attitude of carelessness and indifference towards this equipment.
What We Can Do to Prevent Ladder Falls
Here are some basic ladder tips to help use this equipment safely,
- Always ensure the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is being used when working with ladders or any work from height.
- Employers should ensure they have provided their workers with the necessary, training and instruction, PPE and safe system of work before they begin work with ladders.
- Avoid taking shortcuts especially when it comes to work from heights. Always follow the rules and procedures as recommended by the ladder manufacturer, or other safety guides you may have for equipement you’re using.
- Always examine the ladder thoroughly including the steps and grab rails prior to use. Ensure defective or damaged ladders and equipment are removed from service and repaired before use.
- Ensure ladders are properly anchored and well maintained before use.
- Check to see that the ladder is free from any hazards that would cause a slip, trip or fall.
- Always wear the appropriate footwear before boarding ladders and ensure footwear has proper grip and no grime that may create a slipping hazard.
- You need to maintain three points of contact when climbing or descending a ladder at all times.
- Never ascend or descend a ladder while carrying personal items or supplies, instead lift and lower tools, equipment and supplies using a cord or rope.
- Ensure you secure single and extension ladders at both the top and bottom end.
- Make sure the ladder is clear of any power lines or cables.
- Only set up a ladder where there is no chance of it being knocked over or kicked. Places such as in a doorway aren’t safe to set up a ladder.
- Make sure nobody works underneath the ladder.
- Avoid using tools that require a high degree of leverage, such as pinch bars as this may result in overbalancing or falling.
- While on the ladder, avoid over-reaching as this can cause the ladder to topple over or cause you to lose balance and fall off.
- Always face the ladder as your climb and descend.
What to Do after a Fall
Sometimes, even with the greatest care, accidents still occur. If you fall off a ladder or witness someone else falling, it’s important to act quickly and correctly to avoid serious and possibly permanent injury.
- If you can get up, catch your breath and check to see if you’re injured. Take your time and get up slowly.
- If you cannot get up, call out for help. If you’re alone, slowly slide yourself to the closest communication device and call for help.
- If you witness someone falling from a ladder and they cannot get up, call for help and then administer first aid. Help the fall victim find a comfortable position until the ambulance arrives.
- If you or the person you witness fall experiences any of the following symptoms, seek medical advice immediately,
– loss of consciousness just before or after the fall
– a strong or lingering pain
– headaches and/or dizziness
– overall weakness or unsteadiness
– vision problems
in summary, remember that the simple ladder can be a dangerous, or even lethal piece of equipment. Even when undertaking relatively simple home renovations tasks, there is no room for complacency, or shortcuts which compromise safety.