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How to prevent ladder falls

Ladder falls are incredibly dangerous. Even from a relatively short ladder -- 6 feet tall, for instance -- a fall can result in serious injuries and even death. The risks get worse on taller ladders, though some professions require the use of 30-foot ladders and other such extremes.

If you cannot avoid this type of work, you need to know how to do it safely. Here are a few tips that can help:

1. Always use the right ladder

If you need an 8-foot ladder, use an 8-foot ladder. Do not try to stretch and make it work with a 6-foot ladder. If you need a step ladder, do not use an extension ladder. Remember that every ladder has a specific purpose and using it for something that does not fit with that purpose is a recipe for disaster.

2. Never lean on a ladder

This is one of the more common safety violations. When something is just out of reach, it feels like too much work to climb all the way down the ladder, move it to the side, and climb back up again. However, that is exactly what you must do. Leaning to the side can put the ladder off balance and make it slide against the wall. It can tip over or you can simply fall off of the ladder itself. Never take these risks just to get the job done faster.

3. Never carry tools in your hands

You have to use tools on a ladder, but carrying them in your hands while climbing is dangerous. Always use pockets, belts or packs. You want to have two hands on the ladder as you ascend and descend. Once you reach the top, you can then take the tools out and use them safely, while always trying to hold on to the ladder with the opposite hand.

4. Do not rush

Your workplace may be slightly chaotic and you feel like everyone is always in a rush to get the job done quickly, but you need to slow down and prioritize safety when using a ladder. One slip is all that it takes for a serious fall. Take your time, and tell your supervisor that you need more time if they ever pressure you to work faster.

5. Make sure the ladder is secure

Always put the ladder at the proper angle so that it won't slide toward the wall or tip away from it. Check your surface to make sure it's stable and secure. If the ladder moves at all and there's no better way to set it up, tie it off on the top and the bottom.

These five tips can make falls less likely, but they still happen. Make sure you know your rights if you get injured on the job.

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