Trends in ... ladders and lifts

‘Safety is a two-way practice’

In 2020, 645 people died and another 49,250 were injured as a result of a fall to a lower level, according to Injury Facts, a statistical database from the National Safety Council. Falls from a ladder or lift fall under the “falls to a lower level” category. Why do these types of falls continue to be a leading cause of workplace death?

“Often safety is sacrificed in favor of completing a job,” said Mike Melton, director of product management at Werner Co. in Itasca, IL.

“Transportation incidents account for almost half of all forklift accidents,” added Brian Jones, vice president of business development for Newburgh, IN-based Matrix Design Group. “The medium time away from work for an injury is 16 days. In addition, the cost per medically consulted work injury in 2019 was $42,000 while the cost per death was $1.22 million.”

Safety+Health talked to Melton and Jones to find out what employers and workers can do to better protect themselves from incidents involving ladders and lifts.

Protection comes in many forms

“Visual artificial intelligence cameras are transforming forklift safety,” Jones said. “Through its machine learning capability, AI enables technology to distinguish people as well as specific objects, like other forklifts, stop signs and crates, alerting when they enter a pre-programmed zone around the vehicle.”

Then, there’s enhancing user comfort with more user-operated technology, Melton said. One example is “easy-operating extension ladders that provide lift-assist technology to help end users comfortably raise and lower a ladder,” he said. “New innovative extension ladders now offer internal spring mechanisms that operate similar to a garage door system.”

He added: “There isn’t necessarily a ‘best’ ladder overall but, more importantly, a best ladder for the job.”

When selecting a ladder, “It’s important to know what size, reach height, load capacity and materials, either fiberglass or aluminum, are needed,” Melton said. “Each material offers unique benefits suited to particular conditions, applications or preferences.”

On the worksite

So, how can you keep workers safe on the jobsite?

“Stay consistent in training employees through annual, monthly and daily safety trainings,” Melton suggested. “Along with annual safety training of all employees, companies should be offering 10-minute safety inspections daily or weekly to help prevent accidents.”

Jones added: “When employees know that a company is investing in their safety and a safer environment, they respond positively, and it impacts overall morale.”

And remember, safety isn’t only the employer’s responsibility.

“It’s up to everyone on the jobsite to watch out for the safety of one another,” Melton said. “Safety is a two-way practice and, if people work together, accidents and tragedies can be minimized.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Safety signs/labels
  • Respiratory protection

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