Dave Johnson from ISHN shared a blog post on his approach to ladder safety. He’d had some bad weather near his house, requiring him to use a ladder to to trim some trees. Once he was on the ladder, he realized he should have taken a quick refresher course on ladder safety. Johnson then explained a couple of tips to help others be safer on ladders.
Choose the Right Ladder for the Job
According to the CPSC, the number one cause of ladder injuries is because of choosing the wrong ladder. The ladder should be tall enough that you don’t have to stand on the top rung or top cap. The ladder should also allow you to maintain three points of contact, to have both feet and one hand on the rungs or both hands and one foot. You also want to make sure the ladder is in good shape, not worn or damaged.
Using ladders can get tricky, and it can be helpful to have a second opinion. Many jobs could benefit from consulting another person or having the other person stabilize the ladder while you climb it. This person can also remind you of safe ladder practices.
Keep Your Mind on the Job
Believe it or not, many people get nervous climbing the ladder not because of any specific hazards, but because the ladder’s height makes them nervous. Instead of focusing on the ladder’s height, remain focused on the task at hand and getting that task done safely.
We want to give a special shout out to the Associated General Contractors of America! After three years of research and planning, they recently shared recommendations to improve worker safety across the country.
The CEO of AGC of America CEO, Stephen Sandherr, shared his plan in Texas. He said, “While we are making progress, any number that doesn’t start and end with zero is too high,” Sandherr said. “That is why the Associated General Contractors of America partnered with the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech to undertake a comprehensive study of every construction fatality that took place over a three-year period.”
The organization’s study found that falls, including falls from ladders, are responsible for 1/3 of all construction fatalities. The AGC announced a new training program to help decrease these accidents.
The plan included specific changes to training plans and work plans. The research highlighted some common misconceptions in the industry. For example, the research contradicted other research that indicates Hispanic workers are more at risk for falls and accidents. The AGC recommends targeting the entire workforce with safety programs, rather than targeting specific segments.
Here’s another great quote from Sanderr, “The bottom line is the best safety programs are grounded in hard data and good research, not bad assumptions and exaggerations designed to support a particular political or social agenda. No wisdom or insight should be proprietary when it comes to the safety of construction worker,” he said. “We all share a common goal: getting to zero construction fatalities.”
We couldn’t agree with him more, and his plan could prove helpful in decreasing ladder accidents.
A volunteer in Canada was helping to paint a church when he fell off the stepladder. He sued the church, claiming the church was negligent and had violated Canada’s Health and Safety laws.
The Court Case
The court heard testimony from two occupational health and safety experts. The court rejected one testimony and accepted the other. The accepted expert’s opinion was that the volunteer was not a “worker” by law and therefore the OSHA laws did not apply. He also said that the church did not actually violate any safety laws. The court decided that because the volunteer actually fell while installing trim, rather than while he was painting, the church was not liable for the accident.
Here’s the court’s conclusion to the case:
“The defendant provided a stable ladder, a flat and stable working surface, appropriate ladder use instruction and maintained general compliance observations over many weeks and hours . . .
“Even if it could be said that the tableau presented an objectively unreasonable risk of harm, it was the plaintiff who undertook this task of his own volition contrary to instructions from Jarvis. He assumed the variation in risk. The defendant asked for paint volunteers. The plaintiff was not asked to install trim. This work was beyond Jarvis’ purview . . .”
This court case is interesting because other cases we looked at have sided with the victim. Instead this court sided with the church and found them innocent of any wrongdoing. Regardless of the court results, this accident was unfortunate. Please be safe whenever you are on a ladder and help those around you be safe as well.