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Questions to ask when using a ladder on the job

Your boss asks you to do some work at a significant height, and you're going to need to use a ladder. It's not something that you normally do as a standard part of your job description.

As such, you feel a bit nervous. You know that ladder falls are one of the greatest dangers that workers face in many industries. Even those with a lot of experience can fall and suffer serious or fatal injuries. And here you are, with almost no experience, putting yourself in the same position. What can you do to stay safe?

Key questions

If safety is your main goal -- as it should be -- then start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Can the ladder support the weight of all of the tools and materials you will need? Odds are you are not climbing that ladder on your own. Check the specifications carefully to see if it is the right ladder for the job.
  • Will you need to reach higher than the ladder or reach off to the side? If so, you may have the wrong ladder. You definitely do not want one that is too short, forcing you to stand on the top rungs. You also never want to reach to the side, which can cause the ladder to tip.
  • Do you face any clear hazards? For example, you want to check and see if there are power lines close to the area where you have to use the ladder.
  • Is the ground itself safe? You need to set the ladder up on a flat, secure surface. If you can't, you may need to use something else entirely -- like a truck with a lift -- or you may need to take extra steps to ensure that the ladder is secure before you climb it.
  • Is the ladder in good condition? Since you do not use ladders often, maybe this one has been in storage. Look for evidence of rust or old defects that no one has corrected. You should carefully check over the ladder in advance to make sure it is safe and up to code.
  • Do you have the right training? Do you even know how to climb the ladder safely? Your boss may assume that you do, but don't assume you can't say anything if you feel nervous or unprepared. You deserve the right safety training and instruction. Never put yourself or others in danger because no one taught you how to do the job properly.

These questions can help, but you could still get injured in a fall. Hundreds of people do every year. Make sure that you are well aware of the legal options you have in Ohio if you do get hurt on the job.

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