Ladders have been in use since ancient history for a plethora of uses: from construction and agriculture, storage and maintenance, to library operations and even entertainment. However, ladders are not without their risks and hazards. According to a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, around 5,000 injuries that result in hospital visits are due to falling off a ladder, and this number seems to be rising. This is a significant increase from the reported 3,374 in 2002 and 4,945 in 2012 as noted in a 2016 research on ladder safety.
So whether you’re using your ladders at home for general cleaning and repairs, or if your occupation requires you to constantly work with ladders, here are common ladder mistakes that result in injuries and how to avoid them:
Poor posture and balance
Always climb a ladder with care. Never climb a ladder when intoxicated, or if you feel like you’re about to lose your balance. It’s important to grip the rungs and not the side rails of the ladder, and have at least three points of contact with the ladder at all time (for example: two hands and a foot, or two feet and one hand) to stabilize and keep your balance. It’s also important to never stand on or use the last rung as it’s supposed to only be used for gripping; most ladders indicate the maximum highest standing level/rung. Lastly, never lean or overreach, either use a taller ladder or reposition the ladder to reach whatever object you’re trying to get to.
Choosing the Wrong Ladder
Using the wrong ladder can lead to falling, the ladder slipping, or the rungs collapsing. So make sure that you always choose the right type of ladder for the job — it should be able to reach the objects you need to, as well as handle the surface they’re supposed to be deployed on and can bear the weight of the user and the objects the user is carrying. For example, if you’re working in an orchard, or simply wish to harvest fruits from a fruit-bearing tree in your property in Australia, it’s best to use specialized fruit picking ladders to do so, as they are designed to work well and be stabilized on soil, can handle significant weight, and are very slip-resistant even if your footwear has gone through mud.
Poor Quality or Ill-Maintained Ladder
Buying cheap or poor quality ladders without slip-resistant rungs or a stable base can be quite disastrous. Poor quality ladders can slip despite being installed in a stable and clean surface or can collapse from the weight. Additionally, if you fail to clean and maintain your ladder, it can lead to dirty and slippery rungs, as well as rusted parts which can be dangerous. So invest in good ladders with a good base, slip-resistant rungs, and good material and workmanship, and make sure to properly clean and maintain regularly even when not in use.
Slipping is one of the most common causes of ladder-related injuries, as such, it’s important that you wear clean and slip-resistant shoes regardless if your ladder is made with slip-resistant rungs.
Ladders are necessary tools for households as well as many other industries. And it’s important to be wary of these common mistakes in order to prevent injuries. We often take ladders and ladder safety for granted, but hopefully, you’ve learned enough from this article to take the necessary steps towards ladder safety.