Ladders and Fall Protection
Ladders / Scaffolding Safety and Fall Protection
Accidents involving falls, particularly from ladders and scaffolding, can be some of the most severe in the workplace. Fortunately, they are also some of the most preventable. Using good judgment, being aware of the work environment and wearing the proper fall protection, when necessary, will help keep operators safe on the job.
The rules and guidelines detailed in this article should be followed when working on ladders, scaffolding or working at heights.
OSHA Reference (Subpart X) 1926.1051 – .1053
Ladders are not frequently used in the sawing and drilling industry. However, this lack of use may be more of a problem than first thought. The fact that operators don’t climb or work from ladders very often may cause as much of a safety concern as if they worked from them every day, as the operators are not used to working with or around ladders. Because of this unfamiliarity, ladders can pose a significant hazard.
Here are a few general rules associated with ladder safety. Many of these rules can be applied to a fixed ladder.
1. The use of ladders with broken or missing rungs or steps, broken or split side rails, or other defects is prohibited.
2. The feet of portable ladders shall be placed on a solid base and the area around the top and bottom of the ladder shall be kept clear.
3. Straight or extension ladders shall be used at a pitch of 4 feet (1.22 meters) vertical to 1 foot (0.3 meter) horizontal.
4. The side rails of ladders used for access to higher levels shall extend at least 36 inches (91.4 centimeters) above the landing or work platform.
5. Access ladders in use shall be tied off, blocked off or otherwise secured at the top to prevent displacement.
6. Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.
7. Job-made ladders are not allowed to be built by employees and should not be used.
Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support people and material in the construction or renovation of buildings and other large structures. This modular system of metal pipes or tubes should provide a safe workplace with safe access suitable for the work being done, but can be a potential hazard for sawing and drilling operators if not used correctly.
To ensure the highest possible level of scaffold safety, operators should be aware of the following guidelines:
1. Fall protection is required when working on scaffolding over 10 feet (3 meters) off the ground.
2. The assembly and dismantling of scaffolding must be overseen by a supervisor and inspected prior to use.
3. Each section of frame scaffolding must be equipped with two cross braces.
4. Each area of the scaffolding must be fully planked.
5. Scaffolding sections stacked over four sections high, or 20 feet (6.1 meters), must be tied off to the building to prevent it from falling over.
6. Mud sills and base plates must be placed under each leg of the scaffolding. Mud sills must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches (30.5 centimeters by 30.5 centimeters).
7. Damaged scaffolding may not be used.
8. An access ladder or other safe means of entry is required to gain access to the scaffolding.
9. Contractors may not use each other’s scaffolding.
Identifying fall hazards and providing protection for operators is the best way to reduce or eliminate the risk of falls. The U.S. Department of Labor lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for eight percent of all occupational fatalities from trauma. Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected.
The following rules should be adhered to when assessing the risk of falls in the workplace:
1. A floor is considered protected if it is barricaded or protected by a cover that is capable of supporting twice the maximum intended load.
2. Employees may not work without fall protection in areas where an unprotected floor or wall opening exists with a fall hazard of 6 feet (1.83 meters) or greater.
• Wall openings are defined as a wall or window opening with dimensions of 18 inches (45.7 centimeters) by 30 inches (76.2 centimeters) or greater and a fall hazard of 6 feet (1.83 meters).
• Floor openings are openings of 2 inches (5.08 centimeters) by 2 inches or greater offering a fall hazard of 6 feet (1.83 meters).
• Employees may not work without fall protection near any unprotected area where a fall hazard of 6 feet (1.83 meters) or greater exists.
3. Railings are considered fall protection if they are installed as a top and/or mid rail at approximately 42 inches (106.7 centimeters) and 21 inches (53.3 centimeters) respectively. The railing system must be able to support at least 200 lbs. applied at any point in any direction. This does not apply to some scaffolds and boom lifts.
Abiding by these rules on the job site and reviewing these rules with new employees will assist in reducing the number of on-the-job accidents. Violation of these safety rules may result in dismissal of an employee and/or the company being investigated by OSHA. Gross misconduct may result in immediate termination of an employee by the company.