A Helpful Tool
Extension ladders are a very helpful tool if used properly. Selecting the right ladder for the job is the first crucial step on the road to safety. If a step ladder won't work, a proper size extension ladder is your best bet. Don't be careless. Make sure the equipment works well and follow normal safety procedures. A review of Workers' Compensation files or other sources will tell you many stories of incidents where various factors caused a fall or accident while using a ladder. It makes for horrifying reading. Most accidents involving ladders could have been prevented if proper safety procedures had been followed. There is no such thing as a good fall. Even a fall from a low height can result in a serious head injury or broken bones. So think about your safety plans before you set up your ladder.
Setup and Layout
The best way to ensure an accident free record when working with ladders is to follow proper setup and layout procedures. Follow safe work procedures and you will reduce the risk of falls and other accidents. When you are setting up an extension ladder:
Read and understand the manufacturers operating manual/decals
Make sure manufactured portable ladders comply with CSA and ANSI standards
Make sure the ladder is placed on even ground and within reach of your work
Use anti-skid adjustable feet, secure blocking, or have someone hold the ladder
Don't use any ladder (even wood) near electrical circuits or power lines
Extend the ladder 1 m (4 feet) above a landing if you are using it for access
Rest both side rails on the top support and secure it against movement
Don't stand a ladder on ice or snow
Don't use an unstable object-like a rock or a brick-to level the ladder's feet
If you are setting up in front of a closed door, open the door or lock it
Do not use the two top rungs of the ladder
To get extra height, don't stand a ladder on another object-get a ladder that's the right height for the job
In some instances, you may be required to use a personal fall arrest system when using a portable ladder. Refer to Fall Protection sheet.
Always inspect the ladder before using it. Look for:
Twisted or jammed parts
Loose screws, rivets or rungs
If you find something wrong with you ladder-don't use it. Get a new one or repair it.
Do not paint a wooden ladder-paint may hide cracks and splits. Use a clear wood preservative instead so you can examine the ladder properly.
Balancing Your Safety Act
Climbing and balancing on a ladder requires skill and technique. Don't get fancy or you may pay the price.
Make sure your ladder is at a safe angle, stabilized and secure
The ladder should be at a 4 to 1 ratio.
Use a three-point contact method at all times
Always climb and descend facing the ladder, holding on to the rungs or steps as you climb (not the side rails)
Climb one step at a time and don't climb or descend with tools or buckets in your hands
To maintain your balance, keep your belt buckle (the middle of your body) between the ladder's side rails-don't stretch or overextend yourself
Extension Ladders at Home
Many of us have struggled at home or in the yard with extension ladders. Don't let it be a struggle. Follow the procedures you know from work and let safety rule the roost. Whether you're getting on the roof, picking apples from a high tree, or painting the garage, follow proper safety procedures. Secure your ladder, make sure its parts are working well and place it at the right angle(4 to 1).If the ladder angle is too low (less than 4 to 1), the side rails can break or the ladder can slip out at the bottom. At too high an angle it will be awkward and hazardous as you will have to "belly up" the ladder. Don't let your family or neighbors catch you doing exactly what the boss says not to!
The key to ladder safety is selecting the right ladder for the job. Clean footwear, use of both hands while climbing, and proper setup will reduce the chances of injury. Secure the ladder at top and bottom and make sure it is at an appropriate angle. By following these safety tips, you'll be taking several steps in the right direction. For more information, refer to current applicable Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.