Safety After Reaching the Top

By Teddy Durgin

           You’ve chosen the right ladder. You’ve taken all the right safety precautions before even stepping foot on it for the first time. And you have done everything right while climbing the ladder. You’ve reached your destination. The top. Guess what? Safety should still be top of mind even then.

            So says a trio of industry professionals interviewed for this fourth and final blog article to mark National Ladder Safety Month. Again, it’s important to remember the basics. All three interviewees stressed maintaining three points of contact – two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.

            Chad Lingerfelt, National Safety Training Manager for WernerCo, was the most forceful. “Maintain your three points of contact!” he urged. “If I was teaching my class, I would have a bunch of screws. I’d put one in my mouth, one in my hand, and I’d also hold a drill. That’s the No. 1 bad thing that happens. People reach over and try to drill, or they reach back for screws, or they try to also hold a hammer or nails. That’s too much. You have to keep those three points of contact.”

            Safety at the top is important for homeowners and amateur do-it-yourselfers, as well as for professionals operating a ladder on a work site. Dave Francis, National Safety Director for Little Giant Ladder Systems, LLC, preaches common sense. He stated, “With a homeowner, you’re not going to see the same level of fall protection. Usually, a person is going on their roof to get a job done. They need to clean a window or take down decorations or grab a Frisbee that’s been up there a couple of months. The important thing with homeowners is . . . do the project before you start drinking for the weekend! If you can’t drive, don’t climb. Wear the shoes that you would wear on a job. Don’t go up on flip-flops.”

            He added, “On a job, if you are transitioning from a ladder onto anything above six feet, you’re going to need to be tied off. If you are going up there to do any kind of work, you need to transition into fall protection. This means either a guard rail around the perimeter or some sort of anchor point. On the bigger jobs that have safety officers, they’re going to have harnesses and lanyards and fall protection with harnesses built into their job. That’s the right way to do it.”

            Michael Van Bree, Director of Product Safety and Engineering at Louisville Ladder, concluded with some additional common-sense advice: “Your contact with the ladder is important not only while climbing, but also while working. To that end, the top step and the top cap of a stepladder are not suitable standing surfaces. The reason for that is those upper couple of feet of the ladder are there for your body support. You don’t want to balance on just your two feet. You want to support your body against the ladder, as well.”