Extension Ladder Safety
Working from heights is always dangerous. Injury can occur if a worker does not take the proper precautions. Using their equipment properly can prevent a fall from occurring. This is why there is a focus on ladder safety on every fall protection course that I have taken. Knowing how to set up an extension ladder to prevent it from falling is important part of the job task. Extension ladder safety then should be a dedicated job safety plan.
Carrying the Ladder
The length and weight of extension ladders makes them difficult to carry. They can vary in length from sixteen to forty-eight feet in two sections, with a sixty foot three section ladder available from some manufacturers. The length and weight of these ladders can make them difficult to carry for one person. A good rule of thumb is that if the ladder is twenty-eight feet or less, one person should be able to carry it. If it is greater than twenty-eight feet, then you need to have someone help you carry the ladder.
A study that was conducted to determine the best way to carry a fibreglass extension ladder showed that carrying the ladder on your shoulder with your arms through the rungs put the least amount of strain on the cardiovascular system. If you are carrying the ladder by yourself, carry the ladder at the midpoint. When two people are carrying the ladder, they need to be on the same side of the ladder.
Setting up the Ladder
Before you set up the ladder, check the area for hazards. Check for overhead hazards such as power lines before you put the ladder in place. The ground must be firm and level. If you are working outside and the conditions are windy, do not use the ladder. If you are doing work on concrete of asphalt, have the rubber feet done; if working on grass, the spiked feet must be used. If the ground is not level, use manufacturer approved levelers on one or both legs.
Set up the ladder so there is no chance of “kick-out”. Kick-out happens when the ladder is too shallow to the horizontal; the friction pads are worn, missing, oily or wet; the ground is slippery; or the user climbed beyond the ladder support point.
If you must set up on ice, frozen ground or grass, block the front of both feet to keep them from moving.
You need to ensure that when the ladder is extended you have at least three feet of the ladder above the landing of the roof or whatever you are working with. If you are in the telecommunications industry, the hooks on the ladder are to be above the wire, not touching it. The base of the ladder should be one foot from the wall for every four feet high the ladder is (this is usually expressed as the 4:1 ratio) to prevent the ladder from kicking out. . The extension section of extension ladders needs to overlap the base section when the ladder is extended. The minimum overlap required under CSA Z11-12 is:
|Base Section Size m(ft)||Minimum Overlap m (ft)|
|2 (6.5)≤ 2.5 (8)||1 (3.3)|
|>2.5(8) ≤ 3.6 (12)||1.25(4)|
|>3.6 (12)≤ 5(16)||1.5(5)|
Finally, ensure that the locking clamps are in place and secure before climbing the ladder. If necessary, secure the top or sides of the ladder to prevent it from slipping sideways.
Raising/Lowering the Ladder
The Ladder Safety Guide created by Featherlite provides the following guideline to raise and lower an extension ladder by yourself:
- Position the ladder fly side up, at right angles to the wall and with the top of the ladder approx. 3 ft from the wall
- While standing in front of, and facing, the top of the ladder, bend knees slightly, grasp and lift both base rails and straighten up. While retaining a loose grip on each rail
- Walk toward the centre (approx. balance point) of the ladder, while sliding your hands along the rails
- Firmly grasp both rails and extend your arms to a full upright position
- Walk backwards towards, and rest the top of the ladder against the wall
- Walk to a position immediately behind the ladder feet and while bracing the ladder feet to keep them from moving, extend the fly to the appropriate height
- Grasp the rails at waist height, lift the foot end clear of the ground then move toward the wall until the long-leg on the set-up-assist label is vertical, or the foot of the ladder is 1 foot out from the wall for every 4 feet of height to the ladder support point.
- If you are on hard, clean, non-slip surface ensure that each rubber foot pad is resting squarely and evenly on the surface
- If you are on a soft, loose or slippery surface rotate each ladder foot until the picks are behind the base rail and pointing down. Using your foot on the bottom rung of each ladder-rung, push each pick into the ground as far as possible.
Working from the Ladder
When climbing and working from the ladder, maintain three points of contact. This means that either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand are always in contact with the ladder. When working from the ladder a work position belt can be used as a point of contact so the worker can have both hands free.
One of the most dangerous things that you can do when working from any ladder is overreaching. This can cause the worker to become unbalanced and fall from height. The worker must keep his/her body between the side rails. If you can’t reach you move the ladder, climb down and move it. Never try to “walk” the ladder from the top
Extension ladder safety requires the use of many different steps to keep the worker safe while doing the job. From ensuring that the ground is right and there are no overhead hazards for the ladder to hit, to raising and working from the ladder, proper procedures and personal protective equipment can mean the difference between life and death.