Using the new breed of ergonomic safety ladders and following proper safety procedures in the workplace, will go a long way towards reducing accidents, injuries, and costly claims to both the maintenance technicians and the waste management company.
By Banning K. Lary, PhD and Jeff Green
“Ergonomics: The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. Also called biotechnology, human engineering, human factors engineering.”1 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), there were 22,710 ladder injuries in all occupational groups, led by the installation, maintenance, and repair occupations where in 5,790 injuries the primary source was a ladder.2 The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that each year more than 511,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics, and other medical settings because they failed to use ladders safely. Most of the injuries are cuts, bruises, and fractured bones.3 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that more than 500,000 victims sustain some type of injury each year in the U.S. because of a ladder accident with 300 becoming fatalities. and that “the estimated annual cost of ladder injuries in the U.S. is $11 billion, including work loss, medical, legal, liability, and pain and suffering expenses.”4 Among workers who missed work due to occupational ladder accidents, the average case involved lost time of 11 days. Almost one-third of those cases involved missing 31 or more days of work (see Chart 1).
OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have promulgated specific guidelines regarding ladder design, load capacity, and accident prevention safety training.5 Ladders that meet these standards are allowed in the MRO workplace. Efficient maintenance decreases down time and returns the vehicle to service quicker. Selecting the right ladder promotes safety and facilitates this paradigm, while struggling with an outdated cumbersome ladder, or not using a proper ladder, inhibits progress and makes the work unnecessarily difficult and perilous. Consider the potential liability of the two means of egress into the side chute door of a solid waste truck illustrated in Figure 1.
Among human factors responsible for accidents or injuries, stress and fatigue are the most prevalent. These can result from meeting tight deadlines, environmental impediments, such as noise, lighting, fumes or temperature, and uncomfortable or awkward working positions. Using a ladder which helps minimize these potentially dangerous effects is tantamount to preventing costly accidents and injuries. It is important to select the right ladder manufacturer whose products have been designed and field-tested by the people who use them daily.
Four Preventable Causes of Ladder Accidents
#1: Using the Wrong Type of Ladder
One of the leading causes of ladder accidents is using the wrong type of ladder required to perform a specific task. Ladders are tools and must be selected according to their designated specifications required by law to be described on the label (see Figure 2).
This label reveals (from top to bottom): Company of origin, model number, classification, height, type, maximum load, maximum standing height, when manufactured, OSHA compliance and ANSI classification. Using a ladder outside of these parameters is against regulations and potentially dangerous.6
#2: Using a Worn or Damaged Ladder
A second leading cause of ladder accidents is using a worn or damaged ladder that has broken or missing parts. This can be prevented by inspecting the ladder before use and removing it from service if physical damage is discovered. Company policy may also mandate red-tagging the ladder and notification of supervisory or safety personnel responsible for repairing the ladder or getting it repaired.
#3: Incorrect Ladder Usage
Incorrect ladder usage can also result in ladder accidents with subsequent injuries. This is where training in proper ladder procedure is critical. There are many types of ladders, each with its own safe-use procedure detailing how the ladder is moved and climbed. OSHA recommends always using three points of contact, where two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand are always on the ladder when ascending and descending. This is important as many ladder accidents occur when descending and missing the bottom step.
#4: Incorrect Ladder Placement
Incorrect ladder placement is a fourth cause of ladder accidents. Ladders must be placed the proper distance from the working area on stable ground so work can be performed while standing between the ladder rails. Ladders must be set correctly so one person can climb safely without requiring a second person at the bottom for stability (see Figure 3). Some ladders are free-standing, and others require top rest support. These exigencies must be understood before using any ladder. Ladders should never be placed on a surface slippery with oil or grease, or in front of a door or other unsecured moving object that could hit the ladder while someone is working.
The Importance of Ladder Safety Training
The National Safety Council asserts training on the proper use of ladders in the workplace is essential as nearly 2,000 ladder accidents happen every workday. OSHA’s updated standard 1926.1060 requires employers to train employees on the proper use of climbing equipment [ladders] before it is used in the workplace.7 Training must also be delivered in a way the employee understands by qualified personnel.
Providing ladder safety use training to trucking companies saves a great deal of time and money. A video crew that films the company’s mechanics using the ladders in the maintenance shop, thus creating a collaboration enhances the reality of the subject matter. A safety training assessment quiz after the training can signed by the employee and placed in the employee’s file to prove the training has been delivered by the company, thus placing a line of defense for the company should an accident result from the employee’s improper procedure. All of this creates a win-win situation. The employee gets the training, the company gets liability protection while accidents and injuries are prevented. Everyone benefits.
Much has to do with the study of body mechanics and ergonomics. Look for ladders that are ergonomically designed and have built-in safety features like handrails, slip resistant platforms and extra wide comfort treads that add working comfort while helping to prevent foot thrombosis.
Using the new breed of ergonomic safety ladders and following proper safety procedures in the workplace, will go a long way towards reducing accidents, injuries and costly claims to both the maintenance technicians and the waste management company. | WA
10-Point Ladder Safety Checklist
Shop supervisors are wise to train mechanics to engage a simple 10-point checklist before using any ladder.
1. Thoroughly inspect any new ladder that has not been previously used to make sure no damage has occurred during shipping.
2. Select the correct ladder designed to fit properly in the working area to allow closed working access to the maintenance or repair area.
3. Inspect the ladder for any damage that may have occurred from previous use. If you find damage, do not attempt repairs, tag the ladder, and remove it from service.
4. Once you have determined the ladder integrity is sound, roll your ladder to the working area while maintaining vigilance not to hit any equipment en route.
5. Look for any grease or oil on the floor which may cause the ladder to slip. Also check the bottoms of your shoes. If you find any slippery substance, mark it clearly so others will notice the hazard and report it to a supervisor.
6. When ascending or descending the ladder maintain secure “3-points contact” at all times. That is, two hands and one foot should always alternate with two feet and one hand when climbing.
7. As you reach your desired working height, make sure not to stand above than the second step from the top marked with the “Do Not Stand” safety sticker.
8. When working, be sure to face your work without twisting your spine, staying “within the rails.” This will help prevent back and spine injuries and keep your weight balanced in the center of the ladder. If you have to reach too far, descend and reposition the ladder.
9. Be careful not to drop the ladder as it may cause damage that will render the ladder unusable. After returning the ladder to the staging area, inspect one more time to make certain no damage has occurred during use.
10. If you find a ladder with obvious physical damage, remove it from service and notify your supervisor
Banning K. Lary, PhD is a widely published freelance writer and documentarian with produced works in science, safety, law, psychology, criminal justice, and other fields. He can be reached at (859) 309.0730 or e-mail [email protected].
Jeff Green, LockNClimb’s President and CEO, entered the ladder business in 2000 after a construction worker fell off a ladder on a jobsite and suffered serious injuries. LockNClimb’s ladders are designed by mechanics for use by mechanics with a team of engineers and fabricators who work directly with safety directors, shop managers, and MRO technicians in the field, trying out the company’s prototypes during the research and development phase and tell LockNClimb what features they want that can make their work safer, faster, and easier. Jeff can be reached at (620) 332-4198 or e-mail [email protected].
Ergonomics (definition). The free dictionary. Retrieved from: www.thefreedictionary.com/ergonomic
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Fatal injuries from ladders down in 2020; nonfatal ladder injuries were essentially unchanged at www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/fatal-injuries-from-ladders-down-in-2020-nonfatal-ladder-injuries-were-essentially-unchanged.htm (Retrieved September 04, 2023).
Ladder Tips (2023). https://ussafety.us/ladders-tips/#:~:text=Use%20ladders %20safely!&text=The%20Consumer%20Product%20Safety%2Commission,cuts%2C%20bruises%20and%20fractured%20bones. (Retrieved September 04, 2023).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). “Fall injuries prevention in the workplace.” Retrieved from: www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/falls/mobileapp.html
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2016). “Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR).” Retrieved from: www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9718
American National Standards Institute. (2015). “ANSI ASC A14.2-2007 American National Standards for Ladders – Portable Metal – Safety Requirements.” Retrieved from: http://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=ANSI+ASC+A14.2-2007
Stairways and ladders (2023). OSHA, U.S. Dept. of labor. Retrieved from: www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.1060