Although ladders are one of the most longstanding tools in the inspection industry, they’re also the source of most labor, maintenance and construction-related workplace accidents. Using this basic tool seems fairly straightforward. You probably use one every workday. But according to NIOSH and OSHA, ladder safety is of the utmost importance.
While ladders account for about 20 percent of fall injuries of all workers in every industry, the numbers leap to 81 percent when it comes to inspectors and others in related fields. And those are just the reported injuries that require E.R. treatment.
If you haven’t thought much about your ladder and how you use it, it’s worth your while to check your equipment and assess your safety procedures before the next time you go aloft.
Ladder Accidents Rank Highest in Serious Injuries
Whichever Standards of Practice you follow, it’s fairly clear that they exist not just for consistency in inspections but also for inspector safety. That’s part of the reason why inspectors aren’t required to move furniture or access risky areas such as roofs with an extreme pitch.
The Centers for Disease Control explains that not only are labor, maintenance and construction-related jobs at the highest risk of ladder fall injury and fatality, self-employed people had by far the highest rate of both. But the bright news is that the statistics are preventable.
Safety Begins with a Safe Ladder
You inspect houses for a living, but when was the last time you inspected your ladder? If you have to think about it, it probably wasn’t recent enough. Safety methods are only as good as your equipment. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says portable ladders should be inspected every time that you use them. Every time.
The reason for such strict guidelines is that damage can happen from regular use and storage, or from bouncing on your truck as you drive down the road from one job to the next. It’s just not worth it to take that risk. With so many different types of ladders, you’ll want the right inspection methods for yours. Check out the DOE’s ladder inspection handout.
Setup and Climbing Habits Round Out Ladder Safety
You already know some elements of ladder safety. For example, standing on the top of a stepladder isn’t safe, whether it’s 2 or 8 feet tall. You should only use the rungs and not the bracing on the back side to climb, and always ensure that the folding braces are locked in place before you climb. Extension ladders take other precautions, such as keeping a 1:4 angle ratio and never setting it up on uneven ground.
Because ladder safety depends heavily on the type of ladder you’ve got and the location where it’s set up, the safest way to use your ladder really can be a case-by-case basis. NIOSH has developed a free smartphone app that takes a lot of the guesswork out of inspecting and using your ladder. Click here to download the app for your iPhone, iPad or Android.
The more that you use a ladder, the more you might be tempted to take it for granted. It’s not rocket science, after all. But considering the hazard statistics, you should think about safety every time that you climb. The future of your job and the health of your noggin depend on it.
ICA School has the educational tools that you need to start your own home inspection business. You can learn at your own pace, and earn your certification through instructor-led video coursework. Enroll now if you’re ready to start climbing up your next career ladder.