With the spotlight this month on safety (June is National Safety Month), we are reminded of the importance of safe attitudes and behaviors at work, home, and everywhere in between.
While it is important to be safety-minded year-round, the summer months bring increased opportunities for accidents as people are more active outdoors, travel for family vacations, and use the warm weather and extended daylight for improvement projects around the home.
When engaging in projects that require a ladder, many people fail to recognize or consider the potential for serious injury. This is evident from a recent OSHA analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, as cited in a Safety+Health article by Kevin Druley.
The data shows that from 2017 to 2021, ladder-related incidents resulted in more than 800 deaths and over 27,000 non-fatal injuries. While these numbers are eye-opening, a January 2023 article by the American Ladder Institute (ALI) cites data from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) which is even more impressive.
According to AAOS, 500,000 people every year are treated for ladder-related injuries, and 300 of these injuries are fatal. These numbers are truly staggering – especially when we consider that these incidents are preventable. It an attempt to raise awareness and prevent injury and death, March is observed as National Ladder Safety Month.
Kevin Druley offers helpful tips for reducing the risk of ladder-related injuries.
- Make sure you have the right ladder for the job. To do the job safely and correctly, you need the right tool. Also make sure the ladder is rated to hold your weight.
- Inspect the ladder before use. Make sure there aren’t loose steps, rungs, nails, screws, or bolts. Be sure the footings are secure and in good condition.
- The ladder side rails should extend three feet above the surface being accessed. Accidents occur when the ladder is too short for the job.
- Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder. Two hands and one foot – or one foot and two hands should always be in contact with the ladder. Use the same method whether ascending or descending, and always face the ladder.
- When working outdoors, be mindful of cold and wet conditions which may contribute to slipping and falling.
These tips are obviously not exhaustive – you can probably think of more based on your own observations and personal experiences. For example, proper footwear is very important when climbing up and down a ladder. I can recall a situation in which I attempted to climb down a ladder from the roof of my house (not facing the ladder) and ended up at an urgent care facility. I returned home with a dozen stitches in my forearm.
Consider these tips when using a ladder for any project – at home or at work. Be safe out there.