There’s a common saying among professionals about “climbing the corporate ladder,” but there are hundreds of thousands of workers who climb real ladders as a profession every day. There’s also a common superstition that walking under a ladder will bring seven years of bad luck, but in reality, there are more than 500,000 people treated in emergency rooms and nearly 300 deaths relating to ladder use every year, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Just like climbing them, proper safety and use of ladders is taken one step at a time. In order to keep you out of the emergency room and on the job, here are some steps you can take when working with ladders.
Check Before Climbing
Before climbing any ladder, thoroughly inspect it for anything that could be damaged, broken, or bent. Also, make sure it’s clean and free from mud, oil, or other slippery substances. When climbing ladders 6 feet or higher, the smallest slip could be fatal.
Also be knowledgeable about which ladder to use when working a job. Your employer should have training on proper use and maintenance of the types of ladders needed. There are also external resources you can use to gain a better knowledge on the different types of ladders out there.
Power of the Pyramid
One of the best ways to avoid falling off your ladder is to keep your hands and feet in a pyramid or triangular shape. When facing the ladder, have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder. The ladder is less likely to become unstable should you slip during the climb using this technique. Just remember not to carry any objects in your hands that can interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. Otherwise, you can’t properly keep hold of the ladder if a hand or foot slips.
It’s All About Location, Location, Location
The placement of where you and your ladder are can mean the difference between a day at work and a day in the hospital. Depending on what kind of ladder you’re using, there are proper ways to place your ladder so it can be as sturdy as possible. No matter what ladder you’re using, make sure it’s placed on a flat, even surface and not on top of any objects.
If using a single or extension ladder, use the 4:1 ratio when leaning on a surface. 4:1 means placing the base of the ladder one foot away from whatever it leans against for every four feet of height to the point where the ladder contacts at the top. If using a trestle ladder, climb as high as indicated on the ladder. Avoid placing anything on the top ledge of the ladder because you don’t want anything falling off and hurting those around you.
You should also be mindful of the placement of your ladder. Make sure you’re away from power lines, insect or bird nests, closed doors, or strong wind. If you have to work near these conditions, make sure your ladder is made of the right material. For example, if you’re working near power lines, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder since metal conducts electricity.
Using a ladder is much safer than trying to stand on stacked objects, chairs, or shelves, but the added safety shouldn’t be disregarded by misuse. When you’re safe, you’re more productive. If you fall off a ladder, you might face something worse than seven years of bad luck.