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    Using a Ladder Safely

    By Mark Conroy


    Fire equipment technicians use ladders for many tasks, including restaurant systems, e-lights, exit signs, and signaling systems. Unfortunately, ladders are dangerous, accounting for many work-related injuries and fatalities. According to a 2011 report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 43% of fatal falls by workers in the last decade involved a ladder. In addition, CDC reported an estimated 15,460 ladder fall injuries resulted in more than one day away from work. But ladder accidents are preventable, if you keep safety in mind.

    Select the Right Ladder
    Do not overload the ladder. When selecting the proper ladder, look at the weight capacity and make sure you include your weight and things like your tools, piping, and replacement parts. The weight capacity includes all of these things. Also make sure the ladder length is right for the job. Never select a ladder that needs to be positioned on top of things, like stoves, buckets, tool boxes, or counter tops.

    4-to-1 Rule
    You probably use a straight or extension ladder for e-lights, strobes, and exits signs. When placing this type of ladder against a wall, make sure the ladder is one foot away from the wall for every four feet the ladder raises. For strobe lights, the ladder top might be 12 feet above the floor. In that case, it would need to be 3 feet from the wall. And likewise for e-lights—at 8 feet up, the ladder should be 2 feet from the wall at the base.

    Do Not Use a Worn or Damaged Ladder
    Always use a ladder that is in good condition. An old worn out ladder is dangerous. Ladders do not last forever and need to be inspected regularly for worn or broken parts. A field-fix of a ladder is never a safe thing to do. If you discover loose or missing parts or a problem with a ladder, do not use it. Replace it with one that has no issues.

    Use Step Ladders as Intended
    Stepladders are handy for replacing fusible links and checking for clogged nozzles. These ladders must be opened with the spreaders locked down. Never lean a stepladder against a wall and climb it (the bottom can slip). Also never stand on top of the ladder or its next rung down!

    Other Safety Considerations

    Always face the ladder while running cable, installing piping, and performing maintenance on kitchen systems. That allows you to hold on to the ladder. And wear a tool belt (P/N BELT1) rather than carrying things in your hands. Plus never over-extend your reach to get to the next link (the ladder may spin or even flip, landing you on the floor). Instead, move the ladder and climb back up. Secure the ladder with rope, too, where there is a potential for movement. Also consider using traffic cones (P/N TC12) if the ladder may be in the way of passer-byes. Another thing to consider are doors. They need to be locked, blocked, or guarded when using a ladder near them. Finally, restaurants are greasy places, so make sure your shoes and ladder rungs stay clean so you don’t slip and fall.

    Your work often necessitates positioning yourself above the floor. This can be done safely by selecting the proper ladder, making sure it is not damaged, and using it as intended. Keeping ladder safety in mind on the job or even at home is always a good idea. So practice these safety tips and stay safe out there!

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    Mark Conroy is an engineer in our Boston office and a member of the several NFPA technical committees.
    © 2017 Brooks Equipment Company, LLC.

    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above Tech Series article are the author’s only and provide limited information. Although the information is believed to be reliable, Brooks Equipment Company, LLC expressly disclaims any warranty with respect to the information and any liability for errors or omissions. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information’s accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.