Ladders are practical and easy to use, which is why most users tend to bypass safety measures. This can lead to serious injuries to people in the home, so it’s worth reviewing the basic tips for avoiding accidents.
The National Institute of Safety and Health at Work of the Government of Spain (INSST) has been compiling since 1982 a collection of Technical Prevention Notes (NTP), which has resulted in a manual that gathers the most important information to prevent accidents However, it can be used by private users, since some tools for work use are also used in homes and the dangers are very similar.
This is the case of NTP 239, which is dedicated to the dangers and recommendations for the use of manual ladders, describing the types, characteristics and uses of portable ladders. Here is a summary of the most important considerations when using these tools.
Possible accidents when using a folding ladder
Even if you have the best folding ladder of the moment, there is always the danger of falling from a certain height, this can happen in several ways. One of the most common causes has to do with lateral sliding, either due to poor support of the ladder legs, poor user movement or due to a strong wind. In this sense, as a general rule, a person suffering from vertigo should not use a portable ladder, since it could make it swing and fall, in addition, it is necessary to check that the shoes are compatible with the type of soil to guarantee stability. If the weather conditions are unfavorable, it is best to leave work for another time.
Another reason why falls occur is the breakage of parts of the ladder, such as steps or legs, therefore, it is necessary to carefully check the ladder if it has been stored for a long time, especially in the case of those that are made made of wood, as this material can lose its strength due to humidity, fungi and xylophagous insects. In this sense, it is good to check that the chain or rope that joins the two planes is in an optimal state.
Improper positioning of the ladder can cause imbalance, for example, when the user is too far from the point of repair when he is at the top and must lean his body to one side of the ladder, taking all his weight to one side. Also, it is necessary to mention the possibility of slipping from a step when ascending or descending, in general, this can be avoided if you use suitable footwear. If the ladder is dirty with oil, paint and other substances, it is essential to clean it before doing the work.
Some abrupt gestures by the user can cause accidental falls, this can occur due to a puncture with a sharp object, due to an electric shock, among other reasons. So that this does not happen, it is necessary to have special gloves depending on the work to be done. It is worth mentioning that folding ladders are made to go up and down facing the steps, as this allows for balance and use of the hands for greater stability. Its use with the back to the steps causes falls.
On the other hand, there are entrapment risks, since the folding ladder has two sides that are usually joined by screws, nuts and other elements that can fail with constant use. In this case, part of the body, such as the hands, arms, feet and legs can be trapped, causing considerable injuries.
The dangers of folding ladders are not only associated with the user himself, since being at a high level, there is a possibility that an object may fall on other people who happen under the ladder. For this reason, it is necessary to inform people of the repairs and in some cases isolate the space to avoid traffic around the ladder.
Recommendations for the use and maintenance of folding ladders
The INSST warns that improper transport of the manual ladder can cause damage to the tool itself, causing accidents when using it. This is why it must be deposited with due care when storing it, since strong blows can loosen its mechanisms. Likewise, the ladder should not be used to transport materials, since it is not made for this purpose and this can weaken its structure.
When moving it, it is important that it is correctly folded and it should not be carried in a horizontal position, as this can cause tripping with other people who are walking in the opposite direction. In this case, it is recommended that the front part is always down during the tour. It is very important to take into account that if the ladder weighs more than 25 kg, it is necessary to carry it between two people to avoid injuries.
If the transport is to be carried out by car, the ladder must not protrude on the sides, nor must it exceed 2 m at the front of the vehicle. In addition, article 59 of the Spanish Highway Code establishes that at night the staircase must have a reflective device or red light if it protrudes from the car from the back and during the day it must be covered with a piece of brightly colored cloth.
The maximum opening angle for a folding ladder is 30 °, always with the opening limiter, which can be a rope or chain, since the excess distance between the two sides of the ladder causes instability and therefore accidents. As for the shoes, the rubber or neoprene ones are safe on concrete floors, while the abrasive ones work well on dry floors.
The total load of a wooden ladder should not exceed 95 kg, while metal ones support up to 150 kg. However, in no case is it safe for the ladder to be used by more than one person at the same time.