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Ladders are very useful to us both on and off the job. However, when misused, ladders can also cause severe injuries. Deaths, severe spinal injuries and paralysis are typical of the kinds of injuries that have resulted from falls off ladders, even at heights of less than six feet from the floor. Most ladder falls are the result of both unsafe physical conditions of the ladder, or surrounding area, and unsafe acts by the person using the ladder. And like many accidents, falls from ladders could be avoided if you follow these basic safety tips:
1. If using a ladder outside, never use it in a high wind. There is just no way to make the ladder safe and stable when you are trying to work in a strong wind condition.
2. When placing a straight ladder, always set it at 4:1 ratio. This means for every four feet of elevation on the ladder, set the base about one foot out to ensure that it is stable when leaning against a structure.
3. Always set the base or footings of the ladder on firm and level ground or floors. Setting a ladder on uneven ground or on floors littered with material can invite unnecessary falls. It is also a good idea to secure the top and bottom of the ladder when working from the ladder.
4. When positioned, straight ladders should be long enough so that you can perform your job without climbing above the third rung from the top. You should always plan to extend the ladder side rails at least three feet above any landing.
5. A good, safe ladder should be equipped with safety feet that will prevent the ladder from sliding or moving while you are working on it or using it.
6. Always keep the area around the base and the top clear of unnecessary materials and equipment since these can cause a slip or trip hazard to people working on the ladder.
7. When climbing or descending the ladder, always face the ladder and use both hands. Tools and materials should be raised or lowered by hand lines or other means. They should not be carried on the ladder.
8. When using a step ladder, it should only be used in its full open position with the spreader bars locked to ensure that the ladder will not close.
9. Ladders should not be set up in walkways, driveways or in front of doors where the swing of the door could cause the ladder to fall, without first placing barricades or other protection to ensure safety for people working off the ladder and for people walking in the area.
10. Do not use metal ladders within four feet of exposed live electrical parts; if high voltage, as much as 12 feet clearance is required.
11. If the ladder is damaged or badly worn and loose, take it out of service. Don't allow damaged ladders to remain in service when they could injure a fellow worker.
Ladder safety is something too easily taken for granted. Just remember that a slight, unexpected fall could cause you a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
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