More than 95 million U.S. households celebrate the holidays by displaying a Christmas tree. If you’re among the many Americans who also hang holiday lights, you probably use a ladder to get the job done. You don’t need specialized training to use a ladder. You can buy one at a hardware store and start on your decorations the same day. But how sure are you that you’re following proper ladder safety protocol?
At home or on the job, ladders can be deceptively dangerous. More than 20,000 ladder-related workplace injuries happen every year. Some of those people suffered back or neck injuries. Some have lasting traumatic brain injuries, and some didn’t make it home to their families at all. Ladder injuries can be serious, but they can be prevented with the right policies and procedures.
Short fall causes severe injuries
Late last year, an MEM policyholder and owner of a property management company was using an extension ladder to install an outlet. He was installing the outlet up high so the company could display holiday lights.
Unfortunately, the ladder was not tied off or positioned at the appropriate distance from the ledge. The ladder slid out from under the man as he shifted his weight.
The business owner was only about eight feet off the ground, but he sustained severe injuries from the fall including fractures in the leg, arm and face. These injuries required surgery and long-term rehabilitation.
In addition to the medical hardships, this injury resulted in a workers compensation claim with costs of more than $250,000. A claim of this size will have an impact on the policyholder’s e-mod, which factors into insurance premiums.
Use ladders as a last resort
It wasn’t this policyholder’s first time using a ladder – in fact, he’s been using ladders for more than 20 years. When you use a tool all the time, it can be easy to become complacent and neglect safety protocol.
At MEM, we encourage all businesses to use the Ladders Last philosophy. This means using safer alternatives to ladders – like lifts or portable stairs – whenever possible. If your employees do have to use a ladder, it means making sure they know how to do so safely.
General ladder safety tips
- Choose the correct ladder for the job.
- Inspect the ladder for damage before use.
- Review and follow warnings and instructions.
- Avoid over-reaching.
- Maintain three points of contact.
- Ask for help if you need it.
Extension ladder best practices
- Always secure (tie off) an extension ladder so it doesn’t tip over.
- The ladder should extend at least three feet above the support edge.
- Position the ladder at a 75-degree angle. It should be a 4:1 ratio – set the ladder out one foot for every four feet of ladder height to the support edge.
Learn how to implement the Ladders Last philosophy in your workplace. >
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