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Falls through fragile roofs

If you are planning to use a ladder for a job, think again! Many injuries in farming each year result from ladders slipping sideways or out from the base, or when someone falls from the ladder. It will often be quicker and safer to use a platform on your forklift truck or a tower scaffold. Ladders should only be used when there is no safer alternative, and only for work of short duration (minutes not hours).

Trainee falls while working under supervision

Problem

A farm employee sustained serious leg injuries when he fell off a ladder. Under supervision, the 16-year-old trainee was attempting to fix a door runner about 4.5m from the ground. A risk assessment had indicated that a forklift cage or a tower scaffold should be used. However, the supervisor decided to use the ladder for the short job. The young worker overreached, slipped, and fell.

Solutions

  • Assess the job properly to determine which equipment to use. Ladders are often used for jobs that could be done more safely, and more quickly, using, for example, a working platform on a forklift, or a scaffold.
  • If you are using ladders repeatedly to access the same point, eg to fill a diesel storage tank or a feed hopper, instead fit a low-level filling device, a fixed ladder or, at the very least, some brackets to fit the top of your portable ladder into.

Fall from unsecured ladder

Problem

A farmer suffered fatal head injuries when he fell from a ladder while repairing the roof of a farm building. He was attaching roof sheets at the gable end of the building. He propped the wooden ladder against the gable end but, due to the slope of the roof edge, the stiles were not evenly supported at the top and it is presumed that the ladder slipped. He was found unconscious beside the ladder with head injuries and died later.

Solutions

  • Make sure the ladder is secure and cannot slip. Tie it at the top, or use a suitable stability device to prevent it from slipping.
  • Footing a ladder does not work as well as securing it. For example, if a ladder is more than 5m long, a person at the base is unlikely to be able to stop it from slipping.

Incorrect use of a ladder results in a fall

Problem

A farm worker fell when the base of the ladder from which he was working slipped. He was working inside a building with a ladder that was too long. To compensate, he was using the ladder, which had no feet, at an angle which was too shallow.

Solutions

  • Consider using safety attachments such as an adjustable ladder leveller, or a 'stand off' spreader bar.
  • Set the ladder at the correct angle. It should be angled one out for every four up. To help you, the manufacturer may have marked the correct angle on the side of the ladder.
  • Use a ladder that is, or can be extended to, the correct length.

Farmer falls from a defective ladder

Problem

A farmer fell off a ladder while he was carrying out maintenance work at a height of about 2–3m. The base of the ladder was unsecured and had only one rubber foot, which was damaged. As he reached over, the ladder rocked, causing him to fall off.

Solutions

  • Make sure the ladder is secure and cannot slip. Tie it at the top, or use a suitable stability device to prevent it from slipping.
  • Check the ladder for defects, and make sure it is only used by people who know how to use it correctly.
  • Do not work with ladders within a horizontal distance of at least 6m from any overhead power lines, unless the line owner has made them dead or protected them with temporary isolation. If this is a regular activity, find out if the lines can be moved.
2016-01-05