Safety watch: Avoiding falls

Updated Oct 2, 2019

Avoid FallsThe accident: On his first day of work for a small landscaping company, a man planned to pressure wash the aluminum siding of a three-story house. He climbed an aluminum ladder to the third story and used a scrub brush to remove stains in preparation for washing.

Trying to clean an area to his right, the man leaned out with only his left foot and hand on the ladder, and lost his grip. He fell 15 feet to a small roof overhang, then rolled off, falling another 10 feet to an asphalt driveway. He died from multiple injuries.

The bottom line: Falls account for 18 percent of injuries in the landscape services industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this case, the victim violated at least three ladder safety rules: over-reaching, leaning, and standing on one foot. If doing these things seems necessary to complete a job, use a scaffold. Follow these ladder safety tips as well:

  • Use only well-maintained ladders with a UL seal from the Underwriter’s Laboratory and don’t exceed weight limits.
  • Employ the 1:4 ratio, placing the ladder so its base is 1 foot away from the object it leans against for every 4 feet in height.
  • Place the ladder’s feet on a substantial, non-skid level base.
  • Never stand on braces, extension arms or paint shelves, and don’t climb higher than the third rung from the top. Never use a ladder in a horizontal position as a scaffold.
  • Hold on with both hands when going up or down; raise and lower materials with a rope.
  • Be sure your shoes are not greasy, muddy or slippery.

Tree-trimming activities are also a common cause of falls. To perform this work safely, first consider tree location, height and the availability of mobile equipment. If trees overhang or are close to a street, you could use a truck with an aerial bucket.

OSHA requires fall protection equipment such as ropes, lanyards and safety saddles any time you’re exposed to a fall of more than 6 feet. Inspect equipment for defects before using it. Take precautions to avoid accidentally cutting safety equipment.

Inspect trees and limbs for structural weakness before climbing or cutting. Position yourself close to the tree trunk, on limbs that can support your weight, and never tie yourself to the limb you’re cutting.

For more information:
Information for this Safety Watch was gathered from OSHA, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the National Ag Safety Database. It is meant for general information purposes only.

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