[Photo by Dave Dugdale]
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just launched a Ladder Exchange programme – a scheme which offers individuals a cheap and safe way of replacing their broken ladders with safe ones.
From September 1st 2011 participating retailers will let people trade in broken, damaged or bent ladders and receive safe new ladders at discounted prices. The scheme runs for three months and finishes on 30th November 2011.
In 2009/2010 falls from height accounted for 16 per cent of all reported workplace injuries - a total of over 4,000 injuries. Tragically, 15 people were killed by a fall from height in 2009/2010.
Ladders were involved in over 10 per cent of all falls from height.
The HSE has a document on its website entitled The Safe Use of Ladders and Stepladders which is designed to be a guide for employers looking to protect the safety of employees working at height.
As the document runs to seven pages, there is not space in this article to mention every tip in the guide – below is a summary of six of the best (and most unusual) tips.
1.Treat a ladder gently
A ladder or stepladder should only be used in one position for 30 minutes and is not intended for heavy work; if an employee needs to carry something which weighs more than 10 kg (a bucket, for instance) up steps or rungs then it is not a good idea. Many ladders will have instructions attached which detail the recommended weight that a ladder can bear.
2.Check the ladder’s feet
When moving from soft or dirty ground to a smooth solid surface it is essential to check the feet of your ladder. Make sure it is the foot material and not dirt (for instance, soil or embedded stones) which is making contact with the ground. If it isn’t, the ladder could lack balance and fall over.
3.Use your feet (and hands)
People climbing a step ladder should maintain at least three points of contact while in the working position (two feet and one hand for instance). Hands-free climbing is not a good idea – going up a ladder while both hands are carrying items can lead to a loss of balance. This is why it is vital to use a tool belt whenever possible to carry vital equipment. It’s also best, again for balance purposes, not to have your feet on different rungs of the ladder.
4.Use your head
It’s little use having a head for heights if you don’t apply some common sense before stepping up a ladder. Some of the HSE advice might seem a little obvious but tips such as “don’t extend a ladder while standing on the rungs” and “don’t stand ladders on moveable objects such as bricks” are included for a reason – people have failed to think of these issues in the past.
Over-reaching is one of the main causes of ladder and stepladder accidents; line up your ladder as closely as possible to the area you are working on. If your belt buckle (navel) is outside the stiles of the ladder then you are probably over-reaching.
It’s a shame not to make use of all the rungs of the ladder, right? Wrong – the HSE advises that the top three rungs of a ladder should not be used. The top two rungs of a stepladder should only be used if a reliable handrail is available.
This list is by no means exhaustive and the HSE guide does detail many other tips.
Advice is of course also available from retailers involved in the Ladder Exchange programme – you have until November to take advantage of it.