Falls are Second Leading Cause of Death on the JobThe second most frequent cause of death on the job is falling. Now, no one wants to fall; and most people consider themselves to be reasonably careful. So why does this kind of an accident still make up such a large portion of the pie?

Well, one factor is definitely ladder use. Forty-three percent of fatal falls in the last ten years have involved ladders, and every year there are more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries caused by falls from ladders. The estimated annual cost of ladder injuries in the U.S. is in the double-digit billions. So, addressing the top three most common mistakes made on ladders is a good place to start.

tiptoeJUST GET’ER DONE
aka “Wrong Size Ladder”

Say you bring out a ladder, all the way to the job site, and you find it’s not quite long enough. You’re annoyed. You think you’re just going to lose time by going back to get the other one. You reason, “If I just climb up on the top and reach just a little, surely I can do it…”

This is a deadly thought process. And what makes it even more deadly is that you may have done the same thing seven times—or seventy times—and never gotten hurt before. This builds a faulty kind of “it will never happen to me” confidence that’s actually only based on the luck of the draw.

But this is such a common occurrence that falls from over-reaching, especially from extension ladders, are the leading cause of ladder-related deaths.
The other unfortunate component is a sense of pride in one’s willingness to do something risky and dangerous in order to get the job done; a sort of “I’ll take one for the team” mentality. But the guy who thinks, “Sure it’s risky, but I’m tough,” isn’t the ideal worker imagines himself to be. He’s actually foolishly endangering his life, the financial stability of his company, and the jobs of his co-workers. And what for? For the price of the time it would take to get the right ladder. This roughly equates to a reckless driver who cuts back and forth through traffic only to reach the next stop light 10 seconds ahead of the rest of the cars.

Ladder OutriggersSOLUTION:

Go back and get a ladder that’s the right size. You may even like to choose a ladder that has outriggers which increase its stability and make it harder to tip. A ladder like the one you see in this picture (right) has outriggers that adjust independently for stability on uneven ground. It even contains built in bubble levels for use during setup so guesswork is eliminated.

Broken ToothPOUNDING NAILS WITH WHATEVER’S HANDY
aka “Wrong Type of Ladder”

Would you ever use a wrench to hammer a nail? Well… honestly, you might. It would probably depend on how urgent it was to get that nail in and how far you’d have to go to get a proper hammer.  But what about this next scenario… Would you ever consider using your teeth to pull out a nail? Now, that’s a whole other situation! Who would recklessly risk the pain of breaking a tooth and the thousands of dollars of dental work, just to pull a stupid nail??? What’s the difference between these two examples? It comes down to one thing: the risk of personal injury.
You need the right tool for the job, and that includes the right ladder. Since falling is the second most frequent cause of death on the job, choosing the right ladder for the situation is often actually a matter of life and death.

Adaptive Step LadderSOLUTION:

Use the right piece of equipment for the job.  There are many varieties of ladders available for just about every conceivable type of work.

For example, going up high and staying close to what you’re working on is a problem with a standard step-ladder. The higher you go, the farther you are from the wall. To get around this, people often turn ladders sideways and then twist as they work, greatly increasing their risk of tipping the ladder. Ladder with Work PlatformHowever, this is all unnecessary if you have the right equipment. Get a step-ladder that is made to allow work at a 90 ̊ angel, like the one pictured here (left). One side is adjusted to a shorter length so that it’s almost completely parallel to the wall, and the other side is adjusted longer so that the worker is then able to face the work surface with his feet on a solid rung and apply pressure from a much more stable position.

Another example, when you need both hands for the job, is a ladder with a built in work platform so that you always have the 3 points of contact. The one you see pictured here (right), has the work platform, outriggers for stability, wheels for easily moving it around, and even a safety net to keep a dropped tool from landing on someone below.

Biggest Idiot on a Ladder 2015And if the job actually calls for scaffolding, please don’t do what this guy tried. Cobbling together his own homemade scaffolding earned him the 2015 “Biggest Idiot on a Ladder” award when someone nearby happened to snap this picture (left).

Finally, you may like to download the NIOSH app for ladder safety for your phone. It will help you on the job to make sure your ladder isn’t positioned at an unsafe angle.

NO ONE GETS HURT FROM THIS HEIGHT
aka “I’m Superman”

“What’s the worst thing that can happen from falling off a little ladder? Didn’t you jump off things higher than this when you were a kid?”

SOLUTION:

Education is the only solution to having these kinds of thoughts when climbing up a ladder. Commit this fact to memory, and share it with your co-workers: more than half of the deaths from work related falls happen from a height of 20 feet or less.

The probable reason so many deaths occur even from these “lower” heights is that people underestimate the danger. They think no one really gets hurt falling from this “low.” But the truth is that you should employ the same level of caution and care whether you’re cleaning windows on a skyscraper, or climbing up to change a lightbulb. OSHA requires fall protection for any person who has to work their job from four feet or higher. And there’s a simple reason for that: people can get badly injured, and yes, even die, from a “little” fall of just four feet. Think about it. If a kid can get a cracked skull or a broken arm from falling off a skateboard, it should be easy to see how a fall off any ladder is bad news.

TWO THINGS TO REMEMBER

Even though this article is about the top three ladder mistakes, ladder safety really just involves two main things. First, you have to use the right ladder for the job: it needs to be the right height, and the right kind. And if your boss doesn’t own the right ladder, tell them what they need.  Believe me, no business owner in their right mind wants to deal with workman’s compensation injuries, missed work, job shutdown, and possible OSHA fines! The investment of a couple hundred dollars, or even a thousand, in a good quality ladder, will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in the end.

Second, never again act like climbing a ladder or working from a ladder is no big deal. Make up your mind that you’ll never again take a stupid risk for the sake of time. And never praise a co-worker for taking an idiot risk… What did they save? A few minutes of time. What did they risk? Their safety and possibly everyone’s jobs. Instead create a culture of safety. You’ll help reduce the number of injuries from falls if you take your safety into your own hands.

Peter KaviaBy Peter Kavia
CAI Safety Systems
Peter has been a safety expert for almost 20 years and is certified as a Qualified Fall Protection expert. He currently holds the title of Director of Operations for CAI Safety Systems, a custom turnkey fall protection company in Southern California.

OSHA became law on December 29, 1970, under President Nixon. OSHA enacted laws and standards to protect the safety of men and women in the workplace. In addition to making sure working conditions are acceptable, they also provide training, assistance, outreach and education. This helps to ensure all employers and employees have the tools to be safe while on the job.

Their main goal is to reduce workplace hazards with training and systems, such as the fall arrest system. This is because, prior to OSHA, there was no authority watching over workplace safety. This meant that a lot of people worked in deplorable conditions. Many, many workers were also injured or killed by the lack of rules for safety, or the requirements of safety systems.

With the economy booming, and industrial jobs becoming bigger and better, there was no better time for OSHA to step in and make changes. They oversee all industries in all parts of the United States. No matter where a person works, at least some sort of OSHA signage exists, listing employee rights and employer requirements.

Employers are required to follow the rules that OSHA set forth, or be forced to pay a fine, or worse. Like with the above fall arrest system example, employers in industrial settings must have systems set in place to promote safety. Fall safety, fire safety, and chemical spill safety equipment should be ready and on standby for employees who need it. The employees are not responsible for maintaining the equipment, as it is the employer’s job to make sure it is in functioning order.

Falls account for the largest percent of all work related injuries, according to OSHA. This type of injury is prevalent no matter what the working conditions, but with higher risk come more severe injuries. Falls also account for the highest percentage of deaths at the workplace. This percentage obviously becomes higher as the risk level for falls go up. This is why OSHA requires some sort of fall protection system in place.

Even falls of a short distance can result in an injury to a person. Though these injuries may not be life threatening, they will result in lost wages, medical costs, and compensations to the employee. These costs can be quite large, all of which the company is responsible for, pending negligence.

However, falls of more than six feet can cause serious injury or death. These injuries not only result in pain and suffering for the employee and/or the employee’s family, but also cost a lot of money for the company involved. OSHA has rules in place for cases of high risk. This is why prevention is the best method of defense.

Fall risks are lessened with fall protection equipment, including harnesses and lanyards. These devices keep the employee from falling or striking a surface. The employee still might incur an injury, but it will be a lesser one. In addition, these devices make a huge difference in the percentage of deaths and serious injuries each year. The success of these devices includes proper training of the employees and maintenance of the equipment on hand. To learn more about fall protection and training, contact us today at CAI Safety Systems.