Ladders are not only the cause of the most accidents among handymen but also the most serious injuries. Practically every day, hospital emergency rooms treat fractures and other injuries from falling from a ladder.
At the beginning of this year, we carried out an investigation on behalf of the causes of accidents while doing odd jobs. A representative sample of 14 A&E (Emergency First Aid) departments of hospitals showed that the ladder is by far the most dangerous tool. More than 40% of do-it-yourselfers who had to be treated in the past five years had fallen off the ladder. You can read the full report here.
Why do people fall off the step ladder?
Investigations in professional work environments identify three main causes of ladder accidents. Misalignment of the ladder is the biggest culprit, responsible for 43 percent of all accidents, according to one survey. In 32 percent of the cases, the body becoming unbalanced - for example by reaching too far - is the cause of a fall. And the condition of the ladder is responsible in 24 percent.
All these risks can be prevented by taking the correct security measures. The EC directive 2001/45 for safe working at heights contains regulations that employers and employees must comply with. The measures and precautions that make working with a ladder safer in professional environments naturally also apply to the do-it-yourselfer.
10 ladder safety tips
1. Before use, check that the ladder is free from defects.
2. If you use an extension ladder, let the parts overlap at least three rungs.
3. Place the ladder on a solid and level surface.
4. Place the ladder at a safe angle: 65 ° - 75 °.
5. Always climb with your face towards the ladder and your center of gravity directly above the step. Place your full foot on the step, always keeping three points of contact with the ladder. It is advisable to wear sturdy, non-slip work shoes.
6. Do not hold tools in your hands while climbing, but use a tool belt.
7. Avoid getting higher than the fourth step from the top. This is even one of the regulations in professional environments.
8. Move the ladder in time so that you never have to reach more than a meter.
9. Never use a ladder with two people.
10. Do not leave the ladder unattended in the operating position, especially with regard to children.
The right ladder for the job
Where professionals often have different ladders for different activities, this is of course not feasible for a do-it-yourselfer. When purchasing a ladder, ask yourself what you will need it most and what properties you expect from it. A simple wooden construction ladder is often a wise choice. This type can be fixed well and safely. In addition, there are lightweight aluminum ladders, extension ladders, push-up ladders, insulating plastic ladders and combination ladders, which can be placed in an A-shape. If you do not need a ladder with which you can work at great heights, a work ladder may be a better solution, as it offers a greater degree of safety.
Tools for increased security
There are various products that further reduce the risks of working with a ladder.
A ladder mat prevents sinking and slipping on a not completely reliable surface.
A spacer keeps the top of the ladder clear of the facade, allowing you to work in a more comfortable position.
With a ridge hook, you can hook the ladder on a sloping roof over the ridge.
Wooden or aluminum window battens allow the ladder to rest against the frame when set up in front of a window.
With one of these types of fall protection, you protect yourself if something should go wrong.