Water fed systems and safety use of ladder

Ladders are an important tool for many professions of which window cleaners, builders, decorators, and agricultural workers are just a few. Many thousands of people use ladders on a daily basis, but the frequency with which they are used can create complacency, safety standards begin to fall and accidents at work occur.

Domestic falls from ladders increased 62% between 1992 and 2002, with 48,000 people being injured in this way in 2002. These statistics suggest that people are unaware of important advice for the safe use of ladders.

The injuries that people sustain from ladder falls are often serious, with 4,000 people being seriously injured in the UK each year. 2,300 people were treated for various head injuries in 2003 following a domestic ladder fall, although this number is thought to be an underestimate with many going unreported.

What are the causes of ladder falls?

In order to help improve safety standards for ladder users, it is important to know what the main causes of falls from ladders are. One in ten injuries and deaths in the workplace is caused by ladders, and of these:

- 59% were caused by ladders slipping or skidding
- 27% were caused by workers losing balance
- 8% were caused by ladder breaking

Preventing ladders slipping and skidding

Here are some tips to prevent ladders slipping or skidding:
- Check the feet of the ladder are clean and are not broken
- Make sure the ground is firm and even, and is not slippery
- Lash the ladder firmly by strapping the two stiles, either top or bottom, but never around a rung
- Ask someone to hold it at the bottom, although if the ladder is over 5 metres it is unlikely they can prevent it slipping
- Ensure the top is resting on something solid, not glass or window sash
- Do not splice short ladders together
- Ensure the ladder is at the correct angle. It should be 1 measure out for every 4 measures up.

Reducing the chances of workers losing balance

Here is some advice to lessen the chances of having an accident at work by overbalancing on a ladder:
- Do not over-reach
- Pay extra attention to safety when conditions are windy
- Do not go higher than the 3rd rung from top on straight or extension ladders or the 2nd tread on stepladders unless there are suitable handholds
- Keep the body centred so the belt buckle is between side rails
- Do not carry anything up the ladder, have it hoisted up in a bucket instead
- Always try to keep 3 points of contact with the ladder – 2 feet and a hand

Preventing the ladder breaking

Here are some tips for preventing a ladder breaking:
- Inspect the ladder before every use
- Look for splits, excessive wear, loose or missing rungs, or splinters, and do not use the ladder if any of these are present
- Ensure the weight capacity of the ladder is not exceeded
- Make sure the ladder is kept in a dry environment, out of direct sunlight
- Use preservatives, such as clear varnish or linseed oil to protect the ladder
- Do not paint the ladder as the paint may conceal damage to it

If unsure about the safety of a ladder you are using at work, speak to your health and safety representative about it immediately. Over 100 workers are injured after falls from ladders every week, and around 78 die each year. Employers have a duty of care to safeguard the health of their employees, and if they fail to do this and an accident at work occurs, they have been negligent.
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