Safety Week 2016: Ladders and Scaffolds

May 4, 2016

Ladders and scaffolds present some of the most common locations of safety lapses and accidents. This is because these are simple devices for safe climbing, which can allow workers using them to mistake simplicity for harmlessness, allowing frequency of use to supersede precautions or rules of proper use.

In an effort to take some of these incidents of risk out of the equation, Hunter Roberts has mandated that only A-frame ladders less than eight feet in height are permitted on our jobsites. Before use, be sure to inspect the ladder to assure it isn’t broken or structurally compromised. When setting one up, be sure that the ladder is on secure and level footing, with both spans locked into place. Never set a ladder on top of another piece of equipment or object to gain additional height. Before climbing, inspect what’s above you to ensure there are no hanging electrical wires, rebar, or other obstacles that will create safety hazards once you are in your final working position. If there are, move the ladder’s position.

When climbing, always step onto the ladder facing the rungs and while gripping the side rails. Maintain three points of contact at all times while climbing. If your job requires you to use tools while on the ladder, be sure to secure them in a shoulder sack, on a tool belt or apron, or haul them up to your final position with a line tied to a bucket. Never stand above the third rung from the top of the ladder.

The same basic rules of safety can be applied to the use of Baker or Perry narrow-frame mobile scaffolds, with the addition of some item-specific rules. Once positioned, be sure all wheels are locked before attempting to climb the scaffold. When outriggers are available, use them for additional stabilization and always use them – without exception – when utilizing a multi-platform scaffold. Check each platform to assure they include the following: toe boards, midrails, and top rails. Climb the end frame access ladder with three points of contact.

When working on the platform, never stand on a safety rail or atop an additional object to provide extra “reach”. When working on a ladder or mobile scaffold, don’t reach out too far, thereby compromising your secure footing on the ladder. Instead, take the time to climb down and move the ladder or scaffold as your work progresses. Ladders and scaffolds should not be moved while any individual is on them.

If you use a straight or extension ladder at home, observe these additional safety precautions. Be sure that the footing is set at the right angle: one-quarter the height of the climb away from the object you’re scaling. The top of the ladder should extend at least three feet beyond the top of the object you’re climbing and the ladder’s position should allow for – at minimum – a three-foot, secure surface to step onto atop the object. Finally, whenever possible, lash the side rails of the ladder to another stable object to add additional stability.