Some days, what not to do is right in front of you. When I was walking from the parking lot into the building, I noticed the ladder leaning against the building to access the roof. The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the top of the ladder was extended just barely beyond the top edge of the wall. It was not anywhere close to the minimum 3 feet that it should have extended past the access point between the ladder and the roof.
I went inside and grabbed my business partner to point out the ladder, but also to show him the new NIOSH Ladder Safety App. It’s a simple but useful app that I’ve used out in the field on a couple of previous occasions to document fixed ladders on a worksite. The nice thing about it is that it has a measuring tool that can tell you whether a ladder is placed at too shallow an angle, the appropriate angle, or too steep an angle. When I placed my phone on the ladder, the ladder was at too shallow an angle – 72 degrees. The shallow angle placement of the ladder is compounded by the fact that the feet of the ladder are placed on a downward sloping section of pavement. Between the shallow angle, sloped pavement, and lack of ladder extension beyond the access point, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Correcting these mistakes is a simple fix:
- Extend the ladder further – there is still plenty of extension left in this ladder.
- Check the angle of the ladder to make sure that it isn’t too shallow or too steep. The NIOSH Ladder Safety App is free and easy to use. Almost everyone has a smart phone so there is no excuse not to use the app.
A recent article in The Daily Meal focused on bad kitchen hygiene habits that can be observed by watching most of the television shows featuring celebrity chefs. These habits include unsafe handling of meats and vegetables, lack of personal protective equipment (gloves), and unsafe techniques for tasting food while cooking. The article points out that a reminder during the show about safe techniques could go along way to prevent unsafe and unhealthy techniques being used for cooks at home. A “Don’t Do What I Do” reminder, if you will.
The celebrity food shows are not the only media in which poor or unsafe techniques are shown.
I hate to pick on Fixer Upper (it’s a favorite show in our home) as Chip’s goofiness is always the source of a few laughs. But, this morning as my kids were watching a rerun, I heard him discuss some issues with the roof of a house that they were renovating. When the word “ladder” came across the speaker of the television, I knew that I needed to take a quick peak. I grabbed a quick picture with my cell phone as I saw them pull out the sketchy wooden A-frame ladder which was well below the roof line of the house. Not only did Chip stand on the top step of the ladder with not great holding by his wife, he used this top step as a launching point to climb on to the roof.
In defense of Fixer Upper, almost every home improvement/home repair show on HGTV and DIY features moments just like this one – whether it is with ladders, saws, hammers, etc. As Joanna Fantozzi of The Daily Meal pointed out in her article, a quick reminder of safety principles could go along way towards better safety practices of homeowners as they are attempting to do home renovations and repairs.
While This Old House may not be as fun and glitzy as its HGTV relatives, they include a lot of safety information as they take on different tasks on the show.
Ladder accidents cause nearly 500,000 injuries per year and the rate of ladder injuries has been increasing every year. A significant portion of these injuries are not work related and occur at home.
There are several simple solutions to reducing the number of ladder related injuries:
- Use the right type of ladder.
- Use wood or fiberglass ladders when dealing with electricity.
- Make sure that the ladder is of sufficient height for the task being performed.
- Make sure that the ladder has a sufficient strength rating for the weight of the user and and tools/materials that are being carried or used.
- Make sure that the ladder is in good shape.
- If the ladder is worn or damaged, make sure that the ladder is repaired to manufacturer standards or replaced.
- Make sure that you are using the ladder properly.
- Maintain 3 points of contact when climbing.
- Don’t reach out of your base of support.
- When necessary, climb down, move the ladder, and climb again.
- Make sure that you use proper ladder placement.
- Place ladder on firm, even ground.
- Use an assistant/helper to support the base of the ladder to prevent slipping.
- Don’t place the ladder in front of doors that have not been secured.
One last suggestion comes from a recent paper in Injury by Ackland et al. In their review of admissions to intensive care units due to ladder related injuries, they recommend that ladder users wear helmets to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries in the event of a fall from a ladder. They note that this is especially important in home based environments as typical worksite occupational health and safety regulations are not in effect.
The final rules changes for OSHA’s Walking and Working Surfaces/Personal Fall Protection System Rules have been put into place. This OSHA FAQ provides some quick answers to changes in the final publication.