How to Use a Ladder Safely in Construction Projects
Every year, homeowners and professional construction workers get injured when falling from ladders. A portion of those falls actually result in death.
As one of the most cited safety violations in the country, ladder safety is a skill every construction worker and climber should have under their belt. By understanding how to use a ladder safely in construction projects, you save time, money, and prevent injury.
The following are ten tips on how to use a ladder safely in construction projects:
Climb and Descend Correctly
This advice may seem pretty straightforward climbing a ladder. However, distractions can result in compromises we may not even be sure we are making.
At all times, keep that 3-point contact going. This means you should have two hands and a foot on the ladder, or two feet and a hand. This secures you to the ladder and ensures you’re in an optimum position to react in case of an accident.
Maximum Load Capacity
Do not exceed the maximum weight a ladder can handle. This can easily compromise stability. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize we are going over the maximum load capacity. We don’t factor in things like the weight of materials or tools we're carrying. Although it’s inconvenient, always check your maximum load capacity for the sake of safety.
You may underestimate the skills of climbing and descending a ladder. It looks easy and feels easy, but there’s more to it. You should be able to recognize hazards, have a fall protection system in place, know proper use and handling standards, and more. For the benefit of minimizing injury, get working at heights training on how to properly use a ladder.
Don’t Slide the Ladder Base
If the ladder isn’t correctly angled to where it needs to be, you may be tempted to attempt to slide the base of the ladder over. This looks easy, but it opens yourself up to lots of risks.
If the ground is slippery, you can very easily tip the ladder. It is also possible that the base might be worn down and no longer grips like it used to, so always be careful.
Face the Ladder When Climbing
A ladder is designed to work with its user facing the ladder. This means no looking behind you, no learning backward, and no adjusting your weight. You want to avoid putting stress awkwardly in places it shouldn’t be. When climbing or descending, always remember to face in the direction of your ladder.
Place Ladder on a Stable Surface
Sometimes, with slips and falls, it’s not the ladder that gives way. It’s what the ladder is set up on that’s compromised. Always ensure the ladder is on stable, solid ground. Do not put it on boxes which are slippery. Do not have it on barrels or any sort of questionable base. If you can shake the ladder and it wobbles, it’s best to opt for an alternative surface.
Keep Your Body Between the Rails
Depending on your work, you may be leaning over trying to reach something or have your body slightly outside the borders of the ladder rails. This isn’t good safety work. If you want to be sure there won’t be an injury, anticipate the unexpected. Be ready to react. This means keeping the body between the rails.
Do Not Overextend Yourself
A ladder should extend more than far enough to allow you to reach a destination without overreaching. If you have to climb to the top rung of the ladder to reach a point, it’s probably not the right ladder for the job.
Different ladders exist, each with varying load capacities and heights. This is why some construction companies will carry with them a few different ladders. The rule is to ensure the top of the ladder extends at least three feet above the landing you are aiming for.
Do Not Use a Damaged Ladder
You may look at a ladder and see visible signs of damage and think, “It’s the only ladder I have.” Wrong. Do not ever use a damaged ladder. That indicates its stability is compromised, which increases the chances of a serious injury occurring. Replace the ladder before climbing or descending. For this reason, a lot of construction projects will want to have a second ladder prepared and ready to use.
Do Not Use a Ladder Horizontally
Some mistake the strength of a ladder. Even though it might be sturdy enough for climbing, a ladder isn't workable as a horizontal makeshift platform. Do not ever use an extension ladder of any type as a platform. It isn’t designed to work in this way and will most certainly bend under the weight of a person. Ladders are only designed for vertical up-and-down usage.