Ladders are in play for so much of an electrician’s daily routine that using them becomes second nature. On one hand, this is good — if you’re using them safely and correctly. But if your ladder safety habits aren’t up to snuff, this neglect can lead to a minor injury at best and death at worst.
Observe Ladder Weight Limits
Ladders receive three ratings. Category I ladders are light-duty ladders designed for household use. A professional electrician might use these ladders for a basic light bulb swap. Category II ladders are for commercial use and are rated for up to 225 pounds. Type III ladders are heavy-duty industrial ladders and are rated for up to 250 pounds.
Exceeding the weight limit is a safety hazard. When investing in a ladder, it’s wise to buy one rated to hold more weight than you think you might need. You never know when you’ll have to climb carrying heavy equipment. Risking your life on a ladder rated for a lesser weight could cause the ladder to shift, buckle or break. It isn’t worth it.
Inspect and Perform Ladder Maintenance Daily
If you’re a busy electrical contractor, your ladder sees plenty of daily use, so it’s vital to perform a thorough inspection at the start of each work day. Examine the supports and rungs for cracks, buckling, warping, weather damage or any other sign of weakness. Perform a similar inspection of the base to ensure it’s sturdy and solid.
Ladders pick up dirt and debris no matter where you work. Get in the habit of wiping down your ladder at the end of each work day.
Use Your Ladder Safely
Improper use is arguably the biggest factor in ladder-related accidents. Set up your ladder in accordance with OSHA safety standards. Place the ladder on solid, level ground and ensure the base isn’t wobbly or shifting. Keep it away from entryways and exits. If you must use the ladder in a high traffic area, block off doors and alert others to its presence.
• If possible, have someone spot you or hold the ladder as you work. If this isn’t possible, consider strapping or securing the ladder.
• When climbing a ladder, don’t carry more weight than you can safely manage.
• Maintain good posture and climb as slowly as you feel necessary. Taking a little extra time to ascend or descend the ladder is worth it to avoid injury.
• Don’t lean across the ladder or place yourself in a way that could cause the ladder to come off balance.
• A good rule of thumb is to position your tool belt buckle directly between the rails of the ladder and try to keep it in that spot as much as possible.
Avoid Conductive Materials
As a professional electrician, you know that even non-conductive materials can become conductive when exposed to high voltages. Fiberglass and wood ladders are safer choices than aluminum or steel, but even they can become energized under the right conditions, especially if the supports or hardware are made of conductive metal.
Conductive ladders aren’t insulated, which means they won’t protect you from an electrical shock if exposed to live electricity. Choosing a non-conductive ladder can mean the difference between serious injury or a nasty shock.
Working around live electricity is hard enough, but maintaining a standard of safety is essential. It’s not hard to forget ladder safety when you’re in a rush; it’s even easier to fall into the trap of thinking that a ladder accident won’t happen to you. Accidents happen to everyone – by choosing the right ladder for the job and training yourself in daily safety procedures, you reduce your risks of injury or death.