The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSP) Z359, Fall Protection Code, has identified a hierarchy of fall protection controls, from most effective to least effective. The hierarchy includes:
In general, it is better to use fall prevention systems, such as guardrails, than fall protection systems, such as safety nets/fall arrest devices. That’s because prevention systems prevent falls from occurring in the first place.
Watch these videos for more information on fall protection:
There are many ways you can prevent a fall from a ladder. Below are a few suggestions to get you started.
First, you need to make sure a ladder is the best equipment for what you need to do. Would scaffolding or a mechanical lift be better?
Many times, the ladder is the only physical support you have while you are working. If it fails, you can fall. That's why it is so important to find the right ladder when you do need to use one. The three main types of portable ladders are step ladders, straight ladders, and extension ladders. Each ladder type is used in different situations for different tasks.
Before you start using a ladder, ask yourself two questions.
Is the ladder long enough? It should be long enough to set it at a stable angle and still extend over the top edge to give you something to hold on to when you get on the ladder to descend. Setting the ladder at the right angle helps you keep your balance on the ladder. It also helps keep the ladder from falling backward.
For example, if you will be working on a 10 foot-high roof (3 m), you need a ladder that is at least 14 feet (4.25 m) long. The base should be 2 ½ feet (.75 m) from the wall.
Is the ladder in good working condition? It should not be missing pieces or be cracked or otherwise damaged. Check the duty rating on extension ladders – is it high enough for the weight you will be putting on it? Longer ladders don't always have higher duty ratings, so be sure to check. Click on the link below to see the most common portable ladder ratings.
You can open a comprehensive description of the various types of portable ladders at the American Ladder Institute Ladders 101 webpage.
It is necessary to tie the top and bottom of a ladder to fixed points when:
Tie both sides of the top of the ladder to a fixed point on the roof or another high surface near where you are working. The bottom should be tied to a fixed point on the ground. Securing the ladder in this way prevents the ladder from sliding side-to-side or falling backward and prevents the base from sliding.
Tying the ladder off at the beginning of the day and untying it at the end of the day will only take you about five minutes. It can make all the difference for your safety. If you need to move the ladder around, allow extra time for this important step or consider using something else, such as a scaffold.
Take precautions when you are going up or down a ladder. Instead of carrying tools, boards, or other materials in your hands, use a tool belt, install a rope and pulley system, or tie a rope around your materials and pull them up once you have reached the work surface. Ask for help if you need to use more than one hand to pull them up.
Carrying tools or anything else in your hands as you climb the ladder can throw you off balance. When you climb a ladder, always use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when going up or down.
What is the difference between the three-point-control method and the three-point contact method?
The three-point-contact method requires a worker to depend solely on any three points of contact with the ladder. Using the stomach or palm are examples of points of contact; these points of contact are unstable, unreliable, and lead to a false sense of stability. For instance, if a worker has both feet on a ladder while resting one palm on the roof, they will not be able to prevent a fall if both feet were to slip. For this reason, three-point-contact is not considered a safe work practice.
The three-point-control method is preferred because it requires a worker to use either two feet and one hand or one foot and two hands providing greater stability and support. The three-point-control method requires the worker to place his hand on the ladder in a way to support the full weight of the body if needed in an emergency.
If a worker, using the three-point-control method with both feet properly positioned on the ladder and is gripping a horizontal rung, the likelihood of a fall is much less if both of their feet were to slip. Click on the link below to see the 7 conditions for appropriate point-of-control ladder use.
Keeping three-point-control for good support is critical while a worker is climbing, moving or working at an elevation. It is important to note, the three-point-control method is not a substitution for the use of fall protection equipment.
A non-self-supporting ladder should have a set-up angle of about 75 degrees — a 4:1 ratio of the ladder’s working length to set-back distance.
Here's how to do it: Lean the ladder up against the landing. Stand at the base of the ladder with your toes touching the rails. Extend your arms straight out in front of you. If the tips of your finger just touch the rung nearest your shoulder level, the angle of your ladder has a 4:1 ratio.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed an easy-to-use interactive ladder safety application for smartphones. The NIOSH Ladder Safety application features a multimodal indicator, which uses visual and sound signals to assist the user in positioning an extension ladder at an optimal angle. Furthermore, the application provides graphic-oriented interactive reference materials, safety guidelines and checklists for extension ladder selection, inspection, accessorizing, and use. The application is intended to help a wide range of ladder users, employers, and safety professionals, with their ladder-related safety needs.
Here is a link to download the NIOSH Ladder Safety App for Androids and Apple iOS:
According to the BLS there are thousands of scaffold-related injuries and about 40 scaffold-related deaths every year in the U.S. If you are doing work on scaffolds, know how to work on them safely because it could save your life!
SOURCE: Construction Safety & Health Fall Hazards, Central New York COSH, 2007, OSHA grant product.
Your employer must provide you with fall protection training if you are exposed to fall hazards. The training topics must include:
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