Knowing how to properly use and maintain ladders while working is life-saving knowledge to have for safety protection against falls at work – and at home. Daily, within the United States, at least two thousand citizens are critically hurt during the use of a ladder. If you add in the occasional slip and fall occurrence, that number goes up considerably. For a hundred of them, long-term disability or possibly even permanent disability can be the end result due to their injuries.
Fall Protection and Training
Fall protection and training will consistently play key roles in keeping your employees safe. Worker’s compensation insurance premiums increase as more employees file claims. Falls happen every single day and at least one ladder accident causes a person’s death. At that point, you must ask yourself, “What is the cost to someone when told they are permanently disabled, can never work again or worse.” Loss of income alone can be devastating to a family. Effective January 2017, OSHA established updated employer requirements connected to the performance, design, and utilization of fall protection structures. The update raises consistency between construction standards and the general industry.
The majority of industrial companies’ biggest expenses due to employee injuries deal with ladder-related falls. The financial weight can be astounding. The dreadful human cost is even more shocking. With effort, fall protection and prevention, when it comes to a slip and fall, ladders or aerial access equipment, will most likely be a huge focus the future. Think of this scenario. If you were on the cliff of a mountain, would you rather build a fence around the top of that cliff for safety? On the other hand, would you prefer to station an ambulance at the base of the mountain just in case?
All safety equipment is designed with its potential dangers in mind. During the design process the attempt to eliminate all of those red flags. The designers outline everything in their hierarchy of controls. In layman’s terms, they engineer out the danger. If you do not see a path to engineer the danger out, safeguard against the danger. If guarding against it is not possible, then you must properly warn, supply personal protection equipment and adequately train people on its use and dangers.
Technology of Ladders
Many things over the years have improved thanks to technology. The time has long past to improve the safety of ladders. The primary design of conventional ladders has been untouched for centuries. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the rate of ladder injuries has grown in the past decade. Sadly, a team somewhere reviewed the design and decided that the original blueprint of the ladder could not be enhanced. This is why you will see many warning labels on ladders. These visible warnings force safety professionals to schedule a myriad of training meetings. These meetings teach employees to not do things on a ladder that everyone knows they are going to do anyway.
Stepladders actually present their set of special problems. Falls still happen due to over-reaching. They also have compliance rules pertaining to sustaining three points of contact while in use. You should constantly maintain three points of contact when you ascend and descend on a ladder. For example, there should be a combination of two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot at all times. Now, what should you do once you are no longer in climb mode and begin working? Technically, you are still supposed to have three contact points. Most personnel feel it is difficult to work with just one hand. Tying off above certain height levels is also something recommended. Lastly, what do you do when it comes to working on surfaces that are uneven or over stairs? The debate continues.
Aerial safety cages are another means of reaching heights. They are not actually considered ladders and are not scaffolds or power lifts either. Aerial safety cages permit the operator to perform their work in a completely enclosed space. The unit is a height-adjustable platform that is in compliance with all tie off and guardrail rules. This newer type of access equipment is more adaptable than traditional ladders or powered lifts. Aerial safety cages are capable of adjusting for working on stairs or uneven surfaces. They cages are approved for use surrounding live electrical circuits because they are assembled with non-conductive fiberglass rails.
Protection and prevention against a fall on the job begins with understanding how individuals use ladders. Just as important, there needs to be continued concentration on how people injure themselves using ladders. With continued research in this area, there can be real opportunities to designing new and safer products for climbing. If you are hurt or need worker’s compensation answers, Goodin Abernathy LLP can assist you. Call us for a free consultation if you have been injured on the job.