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How can you reduce job-made wooden ladder falls?

The best way to reduce the possibility of a severe injury on the job is to be conscious of the risk -- and then take carefully considered measures to reduce that risk.

Falling, whether it comes from missing a step, lost footing or just tripping over something, accounts for 16 percent of workplace injuries -- often leading to contusions, fractures, sprains and strains. A worker who experiences a sprained or strained muscle can expect to be off the job for an average of 57 work days. If a worker breaks a bone, the time missed from work goes up to 78 work days.

One of the riskiest areas for worker falls is off a job-made ladder. These wooden constructs are put into place during construction only for a temporary time until work is completed or permanent stairs are created.

How can workers and management reduce ladder-related dangers? Follow certain guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

-- Once the ladder is constructed, it needs to be inspected regularly for structural safety. Damage to the sides or rungs, missing cleats and splits in the wood are all signs of safety issues.

-- The ladder's base should always be tightly secured on a stable, level surface.

-- The wood surface of the ladder should always be free of splits or rough patches. That prevents accidental snags that could throw a worker off balance.

-- Make certain that the ladder can handle loads at least four times heavier than anyone expects is necessary.

-- Train workers to face the ladder while climbing up and down and to use a three-point contact (two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot) at all time.

-- Train workers to keep the area around the ladder free of debris, tools and other materials.

If you were injured in a fall off a job-made wooden ladder, you may experience significant injuries and a long time off work -- or even total disability. If you're having trouble getting your workers' compensation benefits paid, please consider speaking to an attorney.

Source: OSHA.gov, "Reducing Falls in Construction: Safe Use of Job-made Wooden Ladders," accessed April 21, 2017

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