It’s no secret that a fall from even a short ladder can lead to serious injury, and falling from a scaffold can prove to be fatal. That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand the risks and how to prevent falls.
Keep reading to learn the essentials of ladder safety and find out what you need to know to keep yourself, your colleagues, and your family, safe!
What are the Key Risks of Using Ladders and Scaffolds?
Here are some potential risks associated with using ladders and scaffolding:
- Falls: Falling from a height is one of the most significant risks associated with the use of ladders and scaffolding.
- Tipping: Ladders and scaffolding can tip over if they are not properly secured or if they are placed on uneven ground.
- Structural failure: Ladders and scaffolding can collapse or fail if they are overloaded, damaged, or not properly maintained.
- Electrocution: If ladders or scaffolding come into contact with live electrical wires, the person on the ladder or scaffold can be electrocuted.
- Slips and trips: Ladders and scaffolding can become slippery and cause a person to slip or trip and fall.
- Falling objects: Tools or materials can fall from the ladder or scaffolding and injure someone working below.
- Improper use: Misuse or incorrect use of ladders and scaffolding can result in serious injuries.
- Inadequate training: Lack of proper training on how to use ladders and scaffolding can lead to accidents and injuries.
- Weather conditions: Wind, rain, or other adverse weather conditions can make using ladders and scaffolding more dangerous.
- Working near traffic: When working near roads or highways, ladders and scaffolding can pose a risk to both workers and passing vehicles.
Five Tips to Prevent Accidents When Using Ladders and Scaffolds
So without further delay, here are our top five tips to keep you safe when working at height.
1. Thoroughly Inspect the Equipment Before Starting Work
Prior to any use of a ladder or scaffolding, it is imperative that each piece of equipment is thoroughly inspected. Look for signs of wear or damage and check any bolts and safety pins to ensure they are securely fastened and operational.
It is important to never skip this vital step as using damaged, loose, or faulty equipment can put the individual at significant risk of personal injury should something fail whilst in use.
Employers should consider implementing a procedure whereby employees sign for equipment and confirm that they have carried out inspections prior to its use. This can then be part of providing proof for a claim, should an employee take legal accident following an accident.
2. Secure Positioning & Standing Platforms
For workers at height, the most important aspect of their safety toolkit is finding secure positioning and standing platforms. These provide users with a safe place to stand and maintain balance while working. On ladders, for example, this involves placing both feet firmly on the same ladder rung to ensure stability during use.
On scaffolds, this involves using secure cross braces and guardrails to provide proper handholds for support, as well as outriggers for additional stability.
When it comes to accessing elevated work surfaces like roofs, balconies, and mezzanines, some professionals advocate the use of safety harnesses which are designed to prevent a fall from height should the worker lose their balance.
3. Balance & Climb with Care
When climbing, always maintain three points of contact: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand. This will help keep you from slipping or losing your balance when ascending or descending.
Take it slow and steady to reduce the chance of an accident occurring and always wear appropriate footwear such as those with slip-resistant soles to increase stability while working atop the ladders or scaffolds.
4. Use the Right Equipment for the Job
To choose the right ladder for the job, consider the following:
- Height: Choose a ladder that is tall enough to reach the height you need to work at.
- Weight capacity: Make sure the ladder can support your weight and the weight of your tools or equipment.
- Material: Choose a ladder made of a sturdy material that can withstand the type of work you need to do. For example, if you are working near electricity, choose a ladder made of non-conductive material.
- Type: Choose the type of ladder that is best suited for the job. For example, if you need to access a roof, choose an extension ladder. If you need to work on uneven ground, choose a tripod ladder.
- Safety features: Look for safety features such as slip-resistant feet, rungs, or steps, and safety locks to keep the ladder stable.
When considering the type of scaffolding that is best suited for the job, it is important to take into account the specific requirements of the job and the environment in which the scaffolding will be used. Some common types of scaffolding include:
- Frame Scaffolding: This type of scaffolding is made up of vertical frames and horizontal braces that form a rigid structure. It is easy to assemble and disassemble, making it a popular choice for small to medium-sized projects.
- System Scaffolding: This type of scaffolding uses pre-engineered components that can be easily configured to suit the needs of the job. It is versatile and can be used for a wide range of projects, including complex or large-scale projects.
- Mobile Scaffolding: This type of scaffolding is designed to be easily moved from one location to another. It is often used for painting, cleaning, or maintenance work.
- Suspended Scaffolding: This type of scaffolding is suspended from the roof or other elevated structures by cables or ropes. It is commonly used for tasks such as window cleaning or exterior building maintenance.
Each type of scaffolding has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of scaffolding will depend on factors such as the height and size of the project, the terrain and environment, the weight capacity required, and the level of mobility and flexibility needed. It is important to carefully consider these factors before selecting the type of scaffolding for the job.
5. Consider Using Guardrail Systems
An effective way to prevent falls from ladders and scaffolds is to employ guardrail systems. These protective barriers help ensure that workers remain safe while completing their tasks. They do this by providing a physical barrier between the person working and any potential fall hazards while also creating a defined area in which activities can be conducted safely.
For example, when using a ladder, guardrails can be placed on either side as an additional layer of protection should an elevated fall occur. Similarly, when using a scaffold, guardrails can be placed around the entire structure to create an enclosed area that allows the worker to safely access elevated surfaces.
What to Do If You Fall From a Ladder or Scaffold at Work
If you have a fall from a ladder or scaffold at work, you should take the following steps:
- Seek medical attention: If you are injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you feel fine, it is important to get checked out by a medical professional, as some injuries may not be immediately apparent.
- Report the incident: Report the incident to your supervisor or employer as soon as possible. They will need to fill out an incident report and may need to investigate the incident.
- Preserve the scene: If possible, do not move anything at the scene of the incident until an investigation has been completed. This will help determine the cause of the fall and prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.
- Document the incident: Take notes of the incident, including the time and location of the fall, the circumstances surrounding the fall, and any witnesses. Take photographs of the scene if possible.
- Cooperate with the investigation: If an investigation is launched, cooperate fully with the investigation. Provide a truthful account of what happened and answer any questions honestly.
- Follow up with medical treatment: Follow any medical advice and treatment prescribed by a medical professional. This may include rest, physical therapy, or medication.
- Know your rights: If the incident was the result of workplace negligence then you may be entitled to compensation. Know your rights and seek legal advice if necessary.
Conclusion – Stable & Secure
Using ladders and scaffolds is often essential to complete difficult tasks or access otherwise inaccessible places. However, it’s important to remember that improper use can be dangerous, leading to injury and even death. By following the five tips outlined above, you can significantly reduce the chance of falling from ladders or scaffolds.
The difference between an unsafe activity and a safe one boils down to how you navigate the environment with careful attention to safety protocols.