DIY is very common, and often a hobby for many homeowners, but there are some projects that may be best left to the professionals. Projects that require the use of ladders and are at elevated heights may not be the best ones to do on your own. Almost 100,000 people receive emergency treatment for ladder related injuries each year. Among the four thousand occupational deaths a year, elevated height injuries account for a quarter of them. This is why we make sure that every crewmember at The Brothers that just do Gutters is OSHA 10 certified. According to OSHA it’s believed that most of these accidents could be avoided if proper climbing and equipment practices were used. The total amount of ladder injury occurrences each year is continually increasing, and has been for the last ten years.
So what are the most common mistakes made while using a ladder that could cause serious injury?
- Using the wrong type of ladder for the project. Each ladder is made for specific uses and has specific limitations such as weight limit and height. If the climber exceeds the weight limit do not climb this ladder. That limit is there for a reason and the ladder cannot safely support more than the maximum weight limit provided. If your project requires a high elevation and your ladder is not the appropriate height, this raises the potential for injury. Additionally, standing on the top step of a ladder is one of the most dangerous things you can do and significantly increases the chance of falling. Another common way to make a ladder taller is by putting it on something, which is also very dangerous and unstable. Make sure to get and use a ladder that is appropriate for each job.
- Using a ladder that has seen better days. Like number one, using a ladder that has a chance of breaking is one of the most dangerous yet avoidable possibilities of injury. If the ladder is many years old, and is worn, please avoid using this ladder. Getting the project done on your own, right now is not as important as your safety. Make sure to inspect the condition of your ladders before attempting a climb.
- Using the ladder incorrectly. The directions and warnings on ladders is not just a means of the ladder manufacturers covering themselves as far as liability, they are very real. Never use a ladder in any other way than what it is intended for. Do not reach for something not within reach while at the top of the ladder, and do not climb down or up the ladder with your hands full. This is why we always have extra crewmembers on the job to help assist and provide the safest jobsite possible.
- Placing the ladder incorrectly. Placing the ladder on level ground is extremely important in maintaining safety while you’re on the ladder as well as a huge factor in keeping your balance. Also, placing a ladder in front of a door or other areas that can open and potentially hit the ladder accidently while you’re on it is dangerous. Placing a ladder in an unsafe way and/or area can cause unintentional and accidental injury that could have otherwise been avoided. Placing a ladder at the wrong angle can cause it to fall over, or slip out. Resting the ladder against the gutter can cause it to slide. If your overhang is too large, working on your gutters will require assistance or require you to work from the roof. Both of these are dangerous, and why we use two guys per crew.
- Not using three points of contact with the ladder at all times. Three points of contact with the ladder at all times means both feet on the ladder, and at least one hand at all times. You may think you are great at balancing, and this rule is being “too conscious” but at dangerous heights it’s best not to test the theory. And, again climbing a ladder with full hands and/or stretching to reach things is very dangerous. Maintaining three points of contact with the ladder at all times is within the compliance of OSHA safety. Also, having someone spot and anchor the ladder at the bottom is a very smart idea, especially if you are climbing extremely high.
These errors may seem to be common sense, but they are also the most common ladder mistakes made, as well as the most mistakes related to serious ladder injuries. Please make sure to triple check all safety measures if you are climbing a ladder and don’t take the ladder warnings lightly. When dealing with elevated height projects, it really is always best to call professionals who are skillfully trained and certified in ladder safety. See our blog “DIY Safely” for more on this.