Accidents involving ladders are very common in and around the home, as well as in the workplace when ladders are involved. It is important to consider the health of both the ladder, and yourself.

Inspecting Your Ladder

In the workplace, ladders are required by law to be inspected at regular intervals, but it is still a good idea to check the rungs for any damage, loosening of the joints between the rung and the stile, rust, cracks, oil or grease anywhere or damage to the safety feet. If a ladder extends, folds or locks then these parts should be checked thoroughly before use. Once you are satisfied that the ladder is safe to use, you should also check how it is set up. A straight ladder should be leaning at the correct angle (a good rule is 4:1, i.e. four metres up the wall to one metre away at the base) and a step ladder should be positioned facing the object to be reached. The ground should be level and firm or accessories such as a ladder stand or mat should be used to ensure a stable base for the ladder. More guidance on ladder placement can be found from the Health and Safety Executive.

Ladders & Your Health

Even with a correctly set up ladder, accidents can still happen if the person using the ladder is in poor health. Anyone with balance problems should be especially careful when using a ladder: supervision can be helpful. Medications including some painkillers and antihistamines can cause drowsiness, which can impair judgement and co-ordination. Vertigo (often thought of as a problem with heights, but linked closely to balance) was the cause of a fatal accident on a ladder quite recently and a heart condition was thought to have played a part as well. Low blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems can cause dizziness or faintness and this is not a good combination to have with a ladder. Blurred vision makes it hard to judge depth and see exactly where the stiles and rungs are, which can cause slips and falls. Colds and flu, in fact any illness that confines you to bed rest, mean you should avoid ladders. If you are not feeling fit and healthy, then put off using a ladder until you feel better. In an urgent situation, ask someone else to do whatever task requires the ladder, as it can be strenuous and more work than you first think. Broken or sprained limbs can make climbing a ladder very dangerous, especially broken lower limbs. Muscle strength and good grip are essential for climbing a ladder, which precludes people in plaster casts! Injuries to the hands and fingers make it hard to grip a ladder, and plasters or bandages on the affected part can lead to poor contact and slipperiness. Back ache and other muscular pains can also be aggravated by using a ladder for a prolonged period of time, as well as making it potentially unsafe to be using the ladder in the first place. Alcohol and ladders are also not a good mix. Alcohol can impair not only your ability to use the ladder safely, but also your ability to set the ladder up properly and judge whether it is safe. The lack of inhibition caused by alcohol is often a major contributing factor in accidents that happen under the influence as safe judgment vanishes. So take care when using ladders, because both you and the ladder need to be in tip-top condition before you do. Remember, healthy body, healthy ladder.