Falls are a major hazard and a common cause of many injuries, said a youth agricultural safety specialist.
“There are a number of major grain hazards that are associated with grain. The fall hazards are prevalent throughout the entire farm and ranch worksite,” said Marsha Salzwedel from the National Children’s Centre for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety.
During a recent webinar hosted by the AgriSafe network, Salzwedel explored the different types of falls experienced on farms and how to protect against them, such as by using ladders properly and using fall protection systems.
Besides falls, the major grain hazards include entrapment/engulfment, electrical, dust, being struck by something and noise exposure.
She said falls are by far the most common type of accident. Slips and trips are the most typical types of falls, like tripping over an extension cord, uneven ground or wet floors.
“Typically, the injury comes as a result of contacting an object or contacting a surface,” she said.
Elevated falls are the ones that people typically think of when they think of falls: a fall from a higher level to a lower level.
“It might be through something like a hay hole, or it might be a fall off a ladder. These types of falls tend to be less common. They also tend to be more severe. But even at that, more than 65 percent of elevated falls occur from less than 20 feet up,” she said.
“Whenever we talk about falls we definitely need to talk about ladders. As a matter of fact one of the main cause of falls is improper usage of the ladders.”
Ladders fall into two categories: portable and fixed but no matter which kind, there are common safety strategies.
“Safe ladder use is important and it’s hard to communicate just how important this is to use,” she said.
Safe ladder use strategies include permitting only one person on the ladder at a time, climb by keeping three points of contact on the ladder at all times, face toward the ladder rungs, stay centered on rungs, do not overreach and use a tool belt or hand line to carry materials.
“A lot of these things seem like commonsense, but it’s interesting when you look around how many really bad ideas people have when they try to use ladders,” Salzwedel said.
When setting up a ladder for use, the incline ratio is a four to one, which means for every four feet of height the angle should be one foot out.
The ladder should be extended three feet above the landing with the top and bottom of the ladder secured as well as locked, particularly if it’s an extension ladder. Ladder levellers are also necessary on uneven surfaces.
Stepladders also need level support and must be fully opened with spreaders locked. Never climb on the side or rear of the ladder, or stand on the top cap or bucket shelf.
Fixed ladders attach to the side of a structure and often extend 42 feet above the landing surface. If they’re greater than 24 feet, they must have a ladder cage, a personal fall arrest system and a ladder safety system.
“Every 50 feet or less they need to have platforms that are offset on the ladder,” Salzwedel said.
She said fall protection is required anytime there are heights of more than four feet or above or next to dangerous equipment, particularly over floor and pit openings, stair and ladder openings and work platforms.
Structural restraint systems are designed to keep people from falling and include things like railings and barriers, while personal arrest systems stops the fall when it occurs.
The fall-arrest system has an anchor and anchor connector, body harness, lifeline and deceleration device, which the wearer must be trained to use.
A free ladder safety app is available at the NIOSH at cdc.gov/niosh/topics/falls/.
More safety tips
- Use the right size and right type of ladder for the job.
- Inspect ladders before use.
- Ensure ladder feet are flat and are placed on a firm, level surface.
- Never place a ladder on top of other objects.
- Never exceed the maximum load rating.
- Don’t move a ladder when a person is on it.
- Do not use a ladder within three metres (10 feet) of power lines.
- Do not use ladders in bad weather.
- Make sure ladder is free from oil, grease and other debris.
- Never jump off or slide down a ladder.
- Use good footware so feet don’t slip.
- Only use a ladder when you are feeling well and are not under the influence of medicines.
- Use fall protection if the ladder is more than 1.2 metres (four feet) high.