Ladder accidents happen every day around the world, some worse than others. Recently, a Delaware high school student suffered a severe head injury after falling from an unguarded one-story balcony at a construction site. The young man was clearing debris on the site as a cooperative education student employee. An OSHA statement revealed the company willfully exposed him to fall hazards by not offering proper safeguards. OSHA officials cited the company with a $70,000 fine for failure to protect the teen boy from the fall by providing legally required protections. Another citation was given because the boy was never trained properly.
Effectively Training Younger Workers
This situation brings up an important issue; how can we effectively train younger workers on job sites in a way they will listen and learn?
It is not uncommon to find high schoolers or recent graduates on a job site. In many situations, like the one above, training is not given to protect workers who commonly work atop a ladder. When training is provided, these same younger workers do not realize the importance or grasp the serious nature of the training material.
Here are a few simple suggestions to help you better train younger employees within your company:
Use modern, up-to-date videos that demonstrate and show the danger that comes from using ladders improperly.
Provide hands on demonstrations at the job site showing proper and improper ladder use for each of their tasks.
Tailor your tone and messaging to your audience in a way they will comprehend. Do not talk over their heads.
Relate experiences of improper ladder usage and how injuries or accidents could have been prevented.
Incorporate multimedia and humor. While nothing about on-the-job accidents is funny, humor can be used to hold a group’s attention and to get the point across in a different way than a trainer just telling them. Video clips from YouTube or a popular show can be used for entertaining, training and to show you relate with the audience, helping them be more likely to pay attention to you.
These are just a few of the many ways young workers can be trained on ladder safety practices. Remember, it is easy to focus on one age group, but it is important to realize there are younger people on job sites within your company as well.
Ever carried your ladder on the roof of your car or in the bed of a truck? Actually have you ever carried anything strapped to the top of a car? For a lot of people the answer to this is probably that at some point you have. Even those who haven’t can appreciate the concern felt when driving behind someone who’s got something dangerously perched on top of their car. The question that always crosses your mind when you see this is “What happens if it falls?” Hopefully if it falls no one gets hurt but a recent accident covered by Jacksonville.com serves as a reminder that safety should always be a concern when loading anything onto a car. The importance of transportation safety cannot be stressed enough, on or off the clock.
Ladder Accidents and Transportation Safety:
Stavros J. Dalambakis and his wife were the unfortunate victims of just such an accident when a ladder fell off the top of a Toyota 4Runner just ahead of them in the lane. While trying to avoid the ladder, Dalambakis swerved his pickup out of the way, only to have the trailer he was pulling jackknife and drive the truck into the water-filled ditch on the side of the road. Sadly, Mr. Dalambakis did not survive the accident and his wife went to the hospital with some injuries.
Accidents can often be avoided with the proper safety precautions. In this tragic story, the Florida Highway Patrol has not released a statement as to why the ladder fell off the car. It is likely the ladder fell due to it not being properly secured to the vehicle. As a warning, the highway patrol did remind people it is unlawful to drive a vehicle with any load that has not been secured. Annie Lubinsky from businessfleet.com provides several methods for anyone looking to keep their stuff from wandering off.
Remember to train your team on the importance of transportation safety by teaching them how to secure ladders properly when going from job to job. It would be tragic for someone to get injured (or worse!) because a worker did not properly secure his ladder.
What are some of the craziest unsecured loads you’ve seen?
YouTube is a great place to find resources, but it’s also a great place to find people making mistakes on ladders. This video shows that even safety officers can make mistakes. As you can see in the video, the safety officer violates a number of safety steps, which causes his accident.
The safety officer is tied off, but he should still have worked to maintain three points of contact. You will notice he regularly lets go of the ladder, and, eventually, this leads to the ladder slipping and the officer falling.
Another thing the officer did wrong was not secure his ladder properly. Nothing was securing the top of the ladder, so when the safety officer slipped off the ladder, the ladder fell too.
The safety officer should have also made sure the ladder was extended to three feet above the roof line. Securing the ladder in the right spot would have made it so the ladder wouldn’t have fallen when the safety guy lost his balance.
It’s a little difficult to say just from the video, but it looks like his ladder isn’t at quite the angle it’s supposed to be. When climbing an extension ladder, make sure the ladder is at 75.5 degrees. As we’ve mentioned, NIOSH has a great app to help you get your ladder’s angle right every time.
As a safety professional, it is important to follow every single safety guideline, especially when you are training employees. Luckily, it looks like this guy is ok, but it could have been a serious accident. Make sure you are a good example of safety for your team to follow and don’t make the same mistakes this guy does.
The No Step is a simple invention from a safety professional. It was not created by a specific company. Instead, a safety professional saw a problem and came up with a solution, but it seems like it’s not quite the best solution to the problem.
The No Step in Review
As you can see, the No Step is a simple, plastic product you zip tie to the top cap. In an ideal world, this plastic piece would be both a reminder and a deterrent from standing on the top rung. All ladders have the “Don’t Climb” sticker, but the idea is to actually have the No Step be another reminder to be safe at the top of the ladder.
Will the No Step Work?
The main issue with the product is just that it can be easily moved if the operator chooses to climb to the top of the ladder anyway. He or she could simply slide feet under the plastic piece, ultimately defeating the No Step’s purpose.
A Better Solution
I would like to commend the safety officer for trying to find a solution to this incredibly common problem. However, I think there are better solutions out there. For example, what about a ladder that takes off the top rung completely? The top rung is not structurally necessary, so taking it off could actually help the ladder be safer. Instead of just adding a small barrier, eliminating the risk prevents a much better (and safer!) option.
Evaluating your safety program is an importance part of having a safety program. Statistics regarding workplace injuries show there are still a number of accidents on job sites, regardless of the industry. In an effort to reduce accidents, OSHA has provided resources such as training, consultation, manuals and brochures to help you build and evaluate your safety program.
Tips for evaluating your Safety Program:
Safety programs should be evaluated annually. When doing this evaluation, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Involve your employees:
These are the people who have firsthand knowledge and understanding of job site hazards. They may see things you don’t see, allowing them to to provide valuable insight and generate ownership as they help to create solutions.
Review accident history:
Use the history of what has happened as well as what almost happened to create regulations for existing problems. If you notice your team regularly violating certain rules or getting injured doing certain types of jobs, beef up your training for those areas.
Conduct a preliminary job review:
Before starting a job try and find ways to prevent any accidents from happening, especially if it hasn’t been done before. Make sure you get your employees trained for the various hazards they could face on this particular jobsite. For example, if they will be using ladders for part of the job, make sure ladder safety training is incorporated into the job training.
Outline steps or tasks:
Keep track of every step involved in completing a job in order to make it easier to see where specific problems can arise.
Evaluating your safety program will show you what is working and what needs to be improved. What have you found helpful when evaluating your safety program?