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Are you using ladders as safely as you should be? Some Scary Statistics Everyone Should Know

By: Mike Thomas

One of the most common tools used by contractors and other professionals might prove to be the most dangerous. Ladders are indispensible when it comes to reaching places that are out of grasp. They have limits, however, that should be known and respected to keep injury and worse off the jobsite. We’ve all reached beyond the safe zone instead of moving the ladder one more time, or failed to open the braces at the bottom of a stepladder to save a few minutes.

Statistics show that improper use of a ladder is as hazardous as using a ladder that has seen its better days. The most outstanding percentage of injuries, 73%, occurs among users who have not been trained or even read the instructions for safe use. There is a sticker showing safety concerns that should be present on every ladder. That is certainly a statistic that can be improved by spending the time to brief the crew on what you expect when it comes to safety practices on your projects.

Here are some facts about common ladder-related injuries and suggestions for how to avoid them:

53%-61% Improper placement - Place the ladder correctly, use all bracing, and secure it at the top and bottom where recommended.

57% Carrying items in the hands - The climber should haul items up or down in a pouch, pack, tool belt, or other carrier, leaving both hands free to hold the rails firmly.

66% Worn or defective ladders - Teach all on your crew to regularly inspect ladders before use. Replace ladders that are beyond their safe timeframe. A new ladder is far less costly than an injury.

30% Oily or wet shoes - Be sure to wear proper footwear with a heel and wipe any moisture or grease off of the soles before climbing.

In addition, never take your balance for granted. It’s common to see those who use ladders regularly racing up and down, frontwards, backwards, carrying tools in one or both hands, leaving the stabilizer feet up or the bracing unused, and more. Assuming that a ladder will hold the occupant steady under any conditions is a potentially disastrous assumption, especially since most accidents occur during routine misuse.

Complacence and familiarity can seriously injure you or worse. Taking unnecessary chances with a brand new ladder may even be more likely to cause injury than using one that might need to be replaced. Make it a point to know and follow proven safety precautions to remain safe at all times. Use basic safety rules and teach them to those who work with you to improve the chances of an injury-free day on the jobsite.


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†Average repair and replacement costs as reported in a nationwide survey: A Study of Homeowners Appliance and Home System Service Experiences Decision Analyst (2011) and reprinted with their written permission.

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