Ladder Differences You Should Know to Help Prevent Injuries // on Thursday September 17, 2015
Fall is in the air, bringing with it cooler temperatures, football and seasonal outdoor maintenance. It’s the time of year when people and organizations will take care of some overdue yard work, clean out gutters or put up decorations before the weather turns cold. Many of these activities require the use of a ladder, which while handy, also can be dangerous.
According to the CDC, falls remain the leading cause of unintentional mortality nationwide, and 43 percent of fatal falls in the last decade involved a ladder.
If you have volunteers at your organization who are doing some fall maintenance that requires a ladder, or if you are cleaning up your own backyard, review these ladder safety tips before you climb up the rungs.
Selecting the right type of ladder for the job you’re tackling plays an important part in avoiding injuries. Below is a list of the various options:
- Step ladders – self-supporting portable ladder that is non-adjustable in length with flat steps and a hinged back. Step ladders should be used for work at low and medium heights.
- Straight (single) ladders – non-self-supporting portable ladder that is non-adjustable in length and consists of one section.
- Extension ladders – non-self-supporting portable ladder that is adjustable in length. Always select a ladder that is longer than what you need to reach. Extension ladders should be used for climbing up to higher elevations, such as windows, gutters and roofs.
- Aluminum ladders – should not be used around electrical sources, as they conduct electricity.
- Wood ladders – a non-conductor of electricity when dry. Wood ladders age fast, as they are susceptible to drying and splitting with age. Apply some type of protective, clear finish to preserve and extend its useable life.
- Fiberglass ladders – do not conduct electricity when dry. Generally, fiberglass ladders do not require a protective finish to preserve them.
In addition to the various types, ladders have different ratings based on weight and use. Type III ladders should not be used and should be replaced with a Type II or higher-rated ladder. If you can’t find the rating label on your ladder, replace it. Not knowing the rating could cause an injury if the user is too heavy. Learn more about the different ratings, including type, weight and duty.
Maintenance and Training
Even with the correct ladder for the job, maintenance and training are key to avoiding injuries. Over time, the condition of the ladder will deteriorate and eventually become unsafe to use. Periodically inspect ladders for visible defects, and after any incident, as that could affect their safe use. Some things to check for include loose or missing rungs, nails or bolts; cracks; splinters; corrosion and other damage.
Training is important for anyone using a ladder, but especially for a church or other organization where users will often be volunteers or staff. Providing the safest ladder on the market only goes so far, and proper usage training helps fill in those gaps. For more information on proper training, view this Ladder Safety Fact Sheet.
Help keep yourself and other safe when fixing up the outdoors for the season.
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