Safety watch: Preventing ladder falls

Main PhotoxIcy conditions mandate extra precautions

The accident: A 43-year-old contractor positions an extension ladder diagonally across the inside corner of the house’s roof. The ladder’s safety feet are in an up position on the frozen soil. He calls his co-worker to hold the ladder, and the co-worker stands underneath the ladder and holds rung No. 5 with his right hand and No. 7 with his left. The contractor climbs the ladder to rung No. 8 or 9 when the base of the ladder slips away from the house. The falling ladder strikes the co-worker, and the contractor falls and lands on his back. The contractor is taken to the hospital where he dies six days later from severe closed head trauma due to the fall.

The bottom line: Landscapers should conduct a daily hazard assessment to determine if environmental working conditions have changed or will change. In this case, icy conditions would mandate conservative safety measures.

Ladder placement tips:

• A ladder’s safest pitch is when the horizontal projected distance from the top support to the base is not more than 1/4 of the vertical distance between these points. The more the base is moved from this position, the greater the risk that it will slip outward and fall.

• When placing a ladder on frozen surfaces, make sure its safety feet are deeply embedded in the ground. One way to do this is by using a claw hammer to dig 2 to 3 inches deep into the surface and placing the safety feet in the hole.

• Secure the ladder by attaching ropes or straps to its side rails – not rungs – onto a fixed, stable object, such as stakes in the ground.

• The spotter should stand in front of the ladder, hold both side rails and place one foot on the bottom rung of the ladder.

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