Did you know that close to 40 percent of all construction fatalities in 2017 were caused from falls, resulting in 381 deaths? To help limit falls in construction, Werner – the world leader in ladders and manufacturer of a complete line of climbing products – teamed up with OSHA this May for their National Safety Stand-Down campaign. Werner trained close to 20,000 construction professionals across the country on proper ladder and fall protection use.
We’ve included three key learnings for ladder safety and fall protection equipment to level up your safety knowledge.
1. Consider Application & Use
One of the first steps in choosing the right equipment is understanding what type of ladder you’ll need for the job. You may need a ladder with leveling capabilities if you are working on uneven surfaces or stairs, or an extension ladder for reaching an exterior window.
You’ll also need to determine your needed performance level, which is indicated by a combination of a ladder’s construction features and load capacity. Load capacity is defined by the weight of the user along with any tools and equipment being carried while on the ladder. Select the correct duty rating for your needs: Standard, Advanced, Professional and Industrial.
Ignoring the variances and limitations of specific ladder types can result in a fall or serious injury.
2. Determine maximum required height
Determining the appropriate ladder based on the maximum height of the project – not the maximum height of the ladder itself – can greatly improve jobsite safety. For example, projects where you are accessing the roof, require ladders that extend three feet beyond the roofline, while ladders leaning against the gutter should extend an additional foot. Keep in mind that the highest standing level on extension ladders is four rungs down from the top of your ladder.
Except when working from a ladder, regulations require fall protection at just six feet above ground if working on a construction site. Other scenarios where fall protection is required include holes, such as a skylight opening, or an unprotected edge of a walking surface without a wall or rail height of 39 inches.
No matter the height or situation, we recommend a complete and fully effective fall protection system to ensure proper security, which includes a harness, lanyard, anchor, connecting device, retractable or vertical lifeline and corresponding accessories. It’s also crucial that fall protection be worn properly. For example, a full body harness should always include a centered chest strap that has been properly fitted, routed and located at the sternum. Loose straps can cause injury, and the mispositioning of your straps could result in gear failure.
3. Choose the right material
Ladder materials matter. Be sure to research materials that will work best for your ladder. Ladders are typically made from fiberglass or aluminum, but it is recommended to use a fiberglass ladder when working in areas where electric wires are present. While aluminum is certainly durable and often the more common choice, its main advantage lies in its lightweight build.
When it comes to your fall protection harness, nylon and polyester are great choices for material, as they resist many chemical compounds that can shorten the material’s lifespan. Look for gear with visible or inspectable webbing, which is designed to show when the product is damaged and no longer safe for service. This allows you to quickly determine whether your equipment is strong enough to prevent fatal accidents at all heights.
About the Author
Chad D. Lingerfelt is the National Safety Training Manager at WernerCo. In this role, he oversees all of Werner Ladder’s Fall Protection and Ladder Safety Training. For the past 32 years, Chad has worked in the safety field, making sure everyone goes home at the end of the day.