I got an article published on Safety+Health‘s website last month, and I thought I’d share it with you as well. The article talks about stepladder safety.
One of the most common questions I get when teaching is “How do I maintain three points of contact when working on a stepladder?”
I wish I could just send them to the stepladder standard, but it’s not quite that simple.
The standard says, “Each employee shall use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when progressing up and/or down the ladder.”
The standard says what to do when moving up and down the ladder, but doesn’t say what to do when you stop working. Most people don’t climb a ladder just to stand at the top. They usually climb to work on a project, something that may require both hands.
The majority of people tell me they maintain balance using their hip or stomach as the third point of contact. The European standard provides some more detail: “Keep two feet on the same step and the body (knees or chest) supported by the stepladder to maintain three points of contact.”
Workers may still have issues because some companies have a more restricting definition of three points in their company safety policies. Many safety professionals have told me that if their workers need both hands to work while on a ladder, they need to be tied off. While it might sound like best practice, these rules can cause some problems in practical application. The climber would need a proper harness and lanyard and a certified anchor point with a safe way to connect to it without adding risk. Most likely, you can’t think of many spots in your building with proper anchor points, which leads to operators working in unsafe positions.
A trend in the ladder industry provides a potential solution to this problem. Platform ladders with built-in guardrail systems can be a safe alternative to tying off. The platform provides a comfortable surface to work from and the guardrail fulfills the need for fall protection without relying on nonexistent anchor points. These ladders, often made from non-conductive fiberglass, are climbed maintaining three points of contact. Once the user steps through the one-way gates at the top, he or she does not need to be tied off and can work with both hands. The operator works in a fully enclosed working platform quickly and safely with two hands while still complying with industry regulations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2017 in October.
Fall protection was #1. According to Ed Foulke, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta and the former head of OSHA under George W. Bush, fall protection is such a big category because a lot of fatalities are due to falls.
Here are a couple of tips to help with compliance:
Many of the frequent violations on the list relate to training, and employers should check and update training to make sure all employees are being trained adequately.
Even if your company doesn’t have a full-time safety professional, there are things you can do to help decrease workplace accidents.
- Hold weekly safety talks. Review OSHA standards and train employees for about 15 minutes on one topic each week. After a year, an employer should have touched on all the relevant topics at least once.
- Post a list of safety rules and enforce them. Help your employees become familiar with the rules and understand what violations won’t be tolerated.
- Whenever there is an accident, perform an accident investigation to figure out the cause and how to prevent the accident in the future. You can do the same for near-accidents.
Following these steps can help build a culture of safety and can help prevent workplace accidents.
This week, I ran across an article about ladder safety in Australia.
An Australian study found ladder falls are the most common accident for DIYers in Australia. It is summer in Australia and the prime time to get projects done. Statistically, more people on ladders increases the chance of a ladder accident.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare,than a third of DIY injuries in 2013-14 came from falls from ladders.
Almost two-thirds of those falls caused a bone fracture.
The second leading cause of injury was contact with power tools or household machinery. Two hundred eighty-three people had partial or complete finger amputations due to a powered saw. It’s crazy, but also important to remember that more accidents happen with ladders than with any other hazard.
Rachel Meade, injury prevention manager, has a message for DIYers.
“The weather’s improving, so people will have a tendency to get out and start doing some things,” she said. “We would just encourage them to use the right protective equipment, make sure they have the right tools for the job and be aware of their own skill level. I think it’s just about being aware of your own abilities and recognizing that as people are getting older they might need to get people in to do things they would have done before.”
Meade’s message is great for anyone who is using a ladder. Let’s remember what she said and work to prevent ladder accidents.
Some people ask me, “Is ladder safety really that important?”
The answer is YES!
Here are a few ways having solid ladder safety can be beneficial.
The number one way ladder safety training can help your company is by preventing accidents. When you team gets the proper training, they will have the tools they need to use the ladder safely and will be less likely to be involved in a ladder accident.
With the decrease in ladder accidents, there will also be a decrease in costs. The employer will not have to pay for medical bills, workers’ comp or other accident-related expenses.
One of the topics I cover in my training is helping your teammates be safe. Once your team is trained, they will have the knowledge and be empowered to encourage each other to be safe. Another tip I don’t normally cover in my training is to have some sort of motivation to encourage safety.