Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 32 seconds
Anytime you are up over 6′ off the ground all sorts of hazards make themselves apparent. OSHA has some strict fall protection training for construction which are good guidelines for homeowners everywhere.
Use safety procedures when you are over 6′ up.
Ladder falls are responsible for an amazing number of emergency department admissions, they usually involve fractures of the lower extremities but more serious falls can cause what I like to call the “Humpy-Dumpty syndrome.”
Being a safety nut I have deputized my employees to keep an eye out for others as well. Turns out we humans are fragile. We are also prone to breakage. Gravitational injuries of any distance are pretty darn devastating.
To make sure we are all on the same page Levco holds quarterly safety meetings to review our policies and guidelines for these low frequency high risk activities. Anyone on our team can “STOP THE LINE” if danger is eminent.
I was visiting a job site where gutters were being installed and saw this bottom rung on a ladder. Rather than fix it themselves, they thanked me profusely for saying something. They not only replaced it, they provided it to me for this article.
What was the worst thing you ever saw?
As a paramedic, I have been to all sorts of ladder injuries but the most devastating was when a father and son were moving an aluminum extension ladder to trim a tree and were electrocuted and killed together. Turns out electricity can jump from high tension wires. Idaho Power says 10′ is the safe distance away from them. OK, that wasn’t the worst, but it was pretty bad.
These are just a few of my stories
- I was at a the home of a client who was way up on a fiberglass extension ladder while one of the legs buckled and he took a slow motion fall off to side and down to the ground. Turns out skimping on a quality ladder can hurt you in more than just the back pocket.
- I was working on a roof with a friend who lost his Footing and slid off while I watched helplessly, he hit the first floor pop out bounced and landed in a pile of dust on his back ala Wiley Coyote, fortunately he was not hurt seriously.
- I slipped off some second story scaffolding that had a ladder attached. My cat like reflexes grabbed some stabilizing cross bars and prevented a catastrophic accident. In retrospect, it was a ridiculous thing for me to be up there in the first place. I was in a hurry and completely distracted by an inspector on the ground who had just arrived at the job site.
- My employee Ron misunderstood the instructions and put a safety rail tab on backwards, so when he grabbed it, the darn thing came right off. The fall wasn’t so bad Ron said, “it was the sudden stop that hurt his ankle”.
- I just heard about a guy in his 70’s that got out a ladder when his smoke alarm went off mysteriously. Imagine late at night, the lighting probably wasn’t so good either. In the rush to get the darn thing to quiet down he climbed up. Do you think he was ripe for an accident. He was, and it was a catastrophic fall at that.
- Diane threw a subcontractors ladder in the trash, after explaining that it was not safe to use on our projects. I later cut it up and recycled it to make sure someone didn’t decide to take out and use it.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
- Rickety ladders are everywhere! I used to think it was OK because around the home they are rarely used but I know better now. Our climate dries wood out which causes poor connections and tipping or collapse. I am encouraging folks to repurpose old ladders into book shelves or towel racks. In fact, there are some cool things that can be done with an old wooden ladder.
I told a potential client that if she selected me as her contractor, I would replace her ladder because I liked her and her husband that much. Although I tried to take it with me they had some crazy connection with the darn thing and I’m sure it is still an accident waiting for a time to happen.
I ran into a fellow named Mark Kim who is an insurance adjustor for Farmers. He had some great suggestions
- Standing with you feet at the ladder base hold your arms extended to grasp the sides of the ladder rails. this should give you the correct angle.
- Extend the ladder approximately 3 feet past the height of the thing you are climbing to.
- Never step on a rung above the thing you are climbing to.
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