Let’s face it: a little height is a bad thing. You need to respect gravity — and yourself — whether you’re in a crane, on an extension ladder or merely the bottom rung of a step ladder. Ladders are a useful and necessary tool in the sign industry. But, because ladders are so commonplace, safety precautions are often taken for granted.
Every day, one person dies as the result of a ladder fall. Each year, 65,000 people sustain injuries severe enough to require treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Working on an elevation has inherent risks, but studies have proven that the vast majority of accidents involving ladders result from the failure to excercise care. Proper training, as well as routine inspections and maintenance, can substantially reduce the number of ladder-related injuries.
What follows is intended for general application and not as a definitive guide to OSHA. It’s not wholly applicable under every circumstance, and the appropriate regulations and statutes should be consulted. (And, yes of course, a lawyer made me say that.)
Rules for safe ladder use:
- Inspect every ladder prior to EVERY use.
- Do not use ladders with structural defects; properly tag with "Do Not Use" and withdraw from service.
- Carry ladders parallel to the ground.
- Tie ladders down securely when transporting.
- Keep ladders free of oil, grease and other hazards.
- Do not load ladder beyond maximum intended load.
- Use only for the purpose for which the ladder was designed (refer to manufacturer’s labelling and recommendations).
- Barricade traffic areas in vicinity of ladder use. Lock, barricade or guard doorways in which a ladder is placed.
- Keep area around the top and bottom of ladder clear.
- Do not move, shift or extend ladder while occupied. NEVER ‘WALK’ A LADDER.
- Use only non-conductive side rails around live electrical equipment. Do not use top or top step for standing/stepping.
- Do not stand on cross bracing. Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.
- Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder (two feet/one hand or two hands/one foot should be in contact with ladder at all times).
- Carry tools in pouches around waist; use a rope to raise or lower large items such as tool boxes or materials.
- Do not overextend sideways. Use the belt buckle rule: keep your belt buckle positioned between the side rails at all times, which will maintain your center of gravity. Never allow more than one worker on the ladder at a time.
- Wear protective clothing and rubber-soled shoes.
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