What is the 4 to 1 Rule When Using a Ladder?

What is the 4 to 1 Rule When Using a Ladder?

What is the 4 to 1 Rule When Using a Ladder? The other day I had to get up on the roof of my house to retrieve a whiffle ball that was hit up there during one of our many side yard whiffle ball games. While getting my ladder out of the shed and placing it against the edge of the house, I contemplated what is the best distance from the house to place the base of the ladder to ensure the best stability and help ensure that I was safe from falling while going up and down the ladder.

So, what is the 4 to 1 rule when using a ladder? For every four (4) feet of height you have to climb, move the base one (1) foot away from the wall that the ladder is resting against.

While this tip applies specifically to extension ladders, it is great for those of us who only use a ladder a few times a year for things like Christmas decorations, gutter maintenance and retrieving the occasional ball that ends up on the roof.

Why the 4 to 1 rule?

The 4 to 1 rule prevents a ladder from being placed to close or too far away from the wall in which it is placed against. By following the 4 to 1 ladder rule, the user ensures that the ladder is placed in such a way that maximizes balance and stability, helping to prevent it from tipping backwards or to the sides. As a result, accidents are less likely to occur when a ladder is placed properly against the wall and on sure ground.

Ladder Injuries

Injuries from falling from adders can be a serious or even prove fatal. According to the National Safety Council, roughly 500,000 people fall from a ladder every year in the United States and roughly 90,000 people visit the ER as a result of these falls.

Types of ladders

There are a variety of ladders on the market to choose from with each ladder type serving a specific purpose. Some of the more common types of ladders are:

1- Step Ladder

  • Most common type of ladder used
  • Self-supporting – “A-Frame”
  • Two main types of step ladders
    1- Rungs or steps on one side of step ladder and support bars on the other side
    2- Rungs or steps on both sides of the step ladder ‘A-Frame’

2- Extension Ladder

  • Straight ladder that extends upward making the ladder longer to reach higher
  • Requires the ladder to be placed against another object or wall
  • Can reach higher places han most step ladders
  • Comprised of two parts:
    The Base – The part of the ladder that is placed on the ground
    The Fly – The part that extends upward

3- Platform Ladder

  • Similar to a step ladder – the platform ladder has a platform at the top of the ladder
  • Built in rail on the platform
  • Allows the user to stand at the top of the ladder
  • Used in construction, airports, and other businesses where workers need to work in elevated places

4- Step Stool

  • Found in most home bathrooms and kitchens
  • Usually only has 1-2 steps
  • Used to help you get something that is just out of reach
  • Easy for kids to use

5- Multi-purpose Ladder

  • Defined as a ladder that can accomplish the tasks of two or more ladder’s
  • Most often used at construction sites
  • Highly versatile
  • Designed to extend or fold

6- Telescoping Ladder

  • Main feature is the ability to collapse into a variety of different lengths
  • Telescopes in and out
  • Highly compact
  • Highly portable
  • Favored by house painters
  • Most often used at construction sites

7- Folding Ladder

  • Shorter ladder
  • Larger steps
  • Folds up flat
  • Portable
  • Often found in the home
  • Used for small projects

How to Choose a Hard Hat or Safety Helmet

How to Choose a Hard Hat or Safety Helmet

Safety helmets serve many purposes with the overall goal to reduce the damaging effects to the brain and head from a violent blow or jolt to the head, neck, or body, or from a penetrating wound to the scalp and skull. Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a major cause of death and disability in the United States, is the primary concern from head trauma. A blow to the head resulting from a fall accounts for nearly half (48%) of all the TBI in the United States each year. Another 15% are the result of being struck by or against an object. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifies two major types of employees (work environment) who are required to wear head protection.

  • Work environments where there is the potential for head trauma from falling objects, and
  • Employees that work around exposed electrical conductors where the possibility of contact with the head exists

So, when seeking head protection, what characteristics should a person consider when choosing a safety helmet?

  1. The helmet should be of a type and quality that is approved for the type of work or activity you will be performing and the associated impact risks or hazards that could be present. Regardless of the setting, the helmet will be used, it should meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. Also, specific to your unique circumstances, you will need to make a determination as to if you need a helmet that designed for protection against top-only impact (classified as Type I) or a helmet that provides broader protection including lateral impact, front, and back protection in addition to top protection (classified as Type II).
  2. If you will be working in an environment where there is the possibility for contact with electrical conductors, then knowing the helmet’s electrical insulation rating is important. A Class “C” (conductive) helmet provides no protection against electricity. A helmet rated Class “G” (General) is tested at 2,200 volts. A Class “E” (Electrical) rated helmet is tested to withstand 20,000 volts.
  3. The helmet should be comfortable to wear specific to the environment in which it will be worn. It is a documented fact that if a safety helmet is comfortable to wear it is more likely that it will be kept on the person’s head. New composite materials and enhanced design features have enabled helmet manufacturers to increase impact protection without a corresponding increase in the weight of the helmet, an important element to the wearer’s comfort. In addition, a more expansive webbing suspension harness design, sweat absorption guards, ventilation holes, padded chin straps and headband, and breathable features can also increase the level of comfort the wearer can experience.
  4. The helmet should include adjustable components so that the helmet can conform to different head sizes and shapes. A personalized fit not only increases wearer compliance, but it is also associated with better protection from impact. A helpful convenience is a helmet in which making size adjustments can be performed by one hand, thus allowing the helmet to remain on the head when the adjustment is made, helping to ensure optimum comfort and protection.
  5. The helmet should be designed to accommodate a variety of helmet accessories. Like so many devices, machines, and pieces of equipment where accessories enhance the user experience and make the purchase of only one product applicable, a helmet that is designed to accept various accessories, e.g., eye protection, hearing protection, headlight, visors, etc., reduces the number of the primary product that would need to be purchased for performance in a variety of tasks.
  6. Has the helmet received any professional awards for safety, product design or innovation? The safety industry answers to certain oversight guidelines and is highly scrutinized for its efforts to protect the worker. As part of these overarching protections, the industry conducts reviews and assessments and rewards manufacturers and their products with awards to acknowledge the advancements and achievements that have been accomplished. A search for helmet safety may result in a specific product’s recognition for contributions in safety protection.

What are some professions for which OSHA recommends the use of hard hats?

  • Construction workers – carpenters, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, welders
  • Linemen
  • Mechanics and repairers
  • Assemblers, packers, wrappers, and freight handlers
  • Timber cutters and loggers
  • Stock handlers

A healthy and protected workforce is the desire of any employer and certainly the desire of the individual. Hard hats provide protection to head and brain injuries and much research and experimentation has been performed over the decades to help reduce the risk of injury and the extent of injury to the worker. Safety professionals and all those involved in the management of workers exposed to the potential for head trauma should thoroughly assess their individual and unique worksites for potential hazards and select worker safety helmets that meet required or recommended safety guidelines and also address the considerations listed above as they can have a profound impact on the worker helmet wear compliance. It is also important to remember that personal protection equipment is also made for the unexpected when there is no obvious immediate danger that can be observed to the worker, but an understanding that the worker’s environment can change in a moment.

Are Fire Extinguishers Required on Construction Sites?

Are Fire Extinguishers Required on Construction Sites?

In high school and partly in college, I worked helping build residential homes for my parents and others in our home town. Those in charge, always had a fire extinguisher during the building process. After all, construction sites are the perfect source for a Class A fire. While it is a good idea to have a fire extinguisher or water to extinguish any potential fires, I wondered if it is required to have a fire extinguisher on site?

So, are Fire Extinguishers required on construction sites? Construction sites are required to have firefighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers, be on site that is clearly and easily accessible in the event of a fire.

Whether you opt for a fire extinguisher on site or other means such as water or a hose, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that you have the correct type, size and accessibility to extinguish the fires that may occur at a construction site. Let’s look at the OSHA’s guidelines more below.

OSHA Fire Fighting Equipment Guidelines

Fire Extinguishers: Portable fire extinguishers are a great option to have at a construction site. Workers will have the ability to quickly grab the fire extinguisher and go to where the fire originates.

In regards to OSHA’s fire extinguishers requirements:

“A fire extinguisher, rated not less than 2A, shall be provided for each 3,000 square feet of the protected building area, or major fraction thereof. Travel distance from any point of the protected area to the nearest fire extinguisher shall not exceed 100 feet.”

It is important to note that fire extinguishers need to be inspected and maintained to ensure they work properly.

Note: If you would like to better understand the UL ratings of a fire extinguisher, consider reading our other article titled, “Fire Extinguisher UL Rating: What it Means

55-Gallon Open Drum: If you do not want to use a fire extinguisher on site, you are also allowed to use a 55-gallon open drum filled with water along with pails to scoop up the water and take it to the location of the fire. I have never seen this at any of the construction sites that I have worked on.

In fact, I can picture a worker taking a bucket for a project and to never bring it back.

In regard to OSHA’s fire 55-gallon open drums requirements:

“One 55-gallon open drum of water with two fire pails may be substituted for a fire extinguisher having a 2A rating.”

Garden Hose: Many residential home builders opt for the use of a garden hose over a fire extinguisher or a 55-gallon open drum due to the convince and cost. For some, it is just one less item that they need to maintain and bring to each construction site.

In regard to OSHA’s fire Garden Hose requirements:

“A 1/2-inch diameter garden-type hose line, not to exceed 100 feet in length and equipped with a nozzle, may be substituted for a 2A-rated fire extinguisher, providing it is capable of discharging a minimum of 5 gallons per minute with a minimum hose stream range of 30 feet horizontally. The garden-type hose lines shall be mounted on conventional racks or reels. The number and location of hose racks or reels shall be such that at least one hose stream can be applied to all points in the area.”

Selecting the Best Type of Fire Extinguisher for Your Job Site

Class A Fires (Wood, Paper, Cloths, Trash, etc.) are the most common types of fires to occur at construction sites. Which is why OSHA requires a minimum of a 2A fire extinguisher for every 3,000 square feet of the construction site. However, it is not the only type of fire that may occur.

Construction sites that use more than five gallons of flammable or combustible liquids or five gallons of flammable gasses need to use Class B rated fire extinguishers. Construction sites that involve a high amount of electrical equipment or wiring at the site need to use a Class C rated fire extinguisher.

Fire extinguishers that are rated for Class A, B and C fires are the most versatile type of fire extinguishers and meet OSHA’s guidelines for fire extinguishers for those respective fires.

Click HERE to learn more about which type of fire extinguisher you need for your construction site.

Portable Fire Extinguishers VS Wheeled Fire Extinguishers

Portable Fire Extinguishers: Weighing between 2.5 pounds and 30 pounds (agent capacity), portable fire extinguishers are small and designed to hang on a wall or fit in the trunk of a car. They can be used for Class A, B and C fires.

Portable Fire Extinguishers are great for smaller fires. Most businesses, homes, workplaces and public places are fitted with portable fire extinguishers due to their ease of use, affordability and portability.

To learn more about portable fire extinguishers, read our other article titled, “Understanding Portable Fire Extinguishers – Use and Limitations.”.

Wheeled Fire Extinguishers: Weighing between 50 to 350 pounds (agent capacity), wheeled fire extinguishers are designed to combat larger fires. Designed with a well-balanced steel frame and large rubber or steel wheels for easy transport by a single worker through doorways, around corners and into hard to reach places. Depending on the size of extinguisher, it comes with a 25-50 foot hose to extend the reach in extinguishing any Class A, B or C fire.

Larger construction sites may want to use wheeled fire extinguishers as they are designed to combat larger fires that may occur.

To learn more about Wheeled fire extinguishers, read our other article titled, “Wheeled Fire Extinguishers – Specifications.

Fire Safety Tips for Construction sites

  • Training: All workers should be trained on how to use a fire extinguisher. There are a lot of training videos and courses offered online. However, I highly recommend contacting your local fire department and seeing what training they may offer. Some fire departments may even allow you to practice with a fire extinguisher and provide you feedback on your performance. The opportunity to practice provides an experience beyond a lecture and will hopefully enhance your use of an extinguisher.

    If local training is not an option, read our other article on how to use fire extinguishers titled, “How to Operate a Fire Extinguisher”.

  • Inspections: If you are using a fire extinguisher at the job site, ensure that it has been properly maintained by a certified inspector. Not only is this considered good practice, but OSHA requires it.
  • Evacuation Plan: Employers should have an evacuation plan in place in case of a fire. Each worker should be aware of the plan and know what his or her role. Some things to consider when creating the evacuation plan are:
  • Where to evacuate to?
  • Who is in charge? (each shift should have a team evacuation leader)
  • Establishment of a Buddy System
  • Knowing when to combat or extinguish the fire and when to evacuate
  • When and how to receive more training.

Common-Sense Solution to the Dilemma of “To Use or Not to Use” Industrial Back Belts

Industrial Back Belts-To Use or Not to Use

Industrial Back Belts-To Use or Not to Use Industrial Back Belts – “To Use or Not to Use” 

For decades individuals, organizations and agencies have engaged in research and discussion/argument regarding the benefit, real or imagined, of industrial back belts to prevent low back injuries, which accounts for 20% of all workplace injuries.

As reported in multiple articles and discussion based forums, the proposed mechanisms for low back injury prevention center around the belts ability to increase intra-abdominal pressure that helps keep the spinal column more stable through reduced movement, serves as a reminder to the person wearing the belt that they are to lift properly according to accepted proper lifting biomechanics, and that the belts compression on the spine helps reduce the forces that are applied directly to the spine.

The lack of sound evidence, or the prevalence of conflicting data analyzing back belts in the industrial setting for low back injury prevention, has resulted in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a United States federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness, to conclude that “the results cannot be used to either support or refute the effectiveness of back belts in injury reduction.”

Therefore, this discussion must begin with an understanding of some basic principles related to the spine and trunk (sometimes referred to as the core).

  1. While one of the important functions of the spine is to provide us with movement, its primary function when performing upper and lower extremity movements or activities is to limit movement. This limiting function to the spine provides a firm, stable base or foundation from which many of the muscles of the extremities pull against to produce forceful extremity movements.
  2. The muscles that help stabilize the spine and thus minimize spinal movement, consist primarily of the deep segmental spinal muscles, the abdominal muscle group, the low back extensors, etc.
  3. While the deep segmental spinal and low back extensor muscle groups get worked/conditioned quite a bit by simply keeping us upright throughout the day, the abdominal muscles don’t get much work or conditioning as part of most people’s daily routine. Therefore, these muscles must be consciously worked as part of a program to strengthen them or they will weaken and lose their ability to help contribute to spinal stabilization.
  4. Many individuals, including athletes, can confuse the difference between athletic performance and health. For example, sit-ups and crunches will give a person strong abs, but often at the expense of the integrity of their intervertebral discs. This repetitive flexion and extension of the spine is a potent mechanism shown to breakdown the discs leading to bulging or herniated discs and the associated back pain and radiating pain down the legs (sciatica).

With this understanding I submit that what is outlined below is a more common sense and effective way to reduce low back injury while at work or at home or on your field of competition – without the use of a back belt.

  1. Train your work force in proper muscular conditioning techniques for all the muscle groups that are associated with providing support for the spine. Remember, strong muscles are much more resistant to injury than muscles that are deconditioned, and most injuries can be linked to a weakness somewhere in the musculoskeletal system.
  2. Train your work force in proper lifting biomechanics that reduce unnecessary loads while also promoting musculoskeletal conditioning by the activity itself – conditioning that may be inhibited or reduced if a wearing an industrial back belt.
  3. Train your work force in the maintenance of proper posture, while sitting and standing, including the co-contraction of all muscles that support the spine to create a pneumonic type of cylindering around the spine.
  4. Finally, provide some time during the work day for your workforce to engage in these prevention strategies, offer some type of incentive for compliance at work and at home, and hold employees accountable for implementing their training at their work stations.

A properly trained and conditioned body, coupled with a reduction of the risk factors of low back injury through proper biomechanics, is the most effective intervention to reduce low back injuries. Add to this a reward and recognition system for compliance and actual injury rate reduction and you have a well-functioning program that will yield the results overtime.

For Construction Companies, OSHA Compliance Is A Balancing Act

OSHA Regulations Balancing Act Worker Safety

By Richard Robbins

In the construction industry, there is a battle that takes place each workday between OSHA, the agency that governs workplace safety in the United States, and the companies over which it has jurisdiction.  On one side are companies that must find ways to thrive in industries that are often competitive.  These companies want to stay in business at the very least, but their ultimate goal is to obviously make a decent profit. While they may be legitimately concerned about employee safety and overall welfare, leaders of many of these companies see OSHA as a major threat to their bottom line and to their survival.


OSHA Regulates Safety in the Construction Industry

One of the most common complaints from business owners about OSHA is its ability to fine exorbitant amounts for issues that can be difficult to control.  Dan Phillips, the owner of a small Kansas-based roofing company who was fined $4,600 (reduced from $23,000 because his was a small business) recently because one of his employees temporarily unlatched his safety rope on the job within site of an OSHA inspector, explained that “If you watch a construction site long enough, someone is going to do something stupid.”

There is no doubt that OSHA’s existence has made the workplace safer by essentially saving people from themselves or from the dangers of their work environments, but at what cost? From my own experience, it’s obvious that the nature of construction workers does not normally prioritize complying with safety codes that feel to be silly and unwarranted. Those responsible for the safety and compliance of their crews are at the mercy of employees who often think that, for instance, the OSHA requirement that they wear OSHA-compliant safety harnesses when working six feet above the ground on a construction site, doesn’t apply to them and their risk level. It is impossible to police those who choose not to follow the boss’ orders, even when they’ve been trained.

OSHA's regulations include codes for electrocution hazards.

Violations of OSHA regulations exist on almost any major construction site, but most of those infractions are not brought to light until an accident attracts the attention of an OSHA investigation, as in the recent case of a welder working for Metal Shredders, an Ohio-based recycling company, who was electrocuted after stepping on a live electrical line. The ensuing OSHA investigation concluded that the company should be fined $115,000 because, among other violations they found, they didn’t properly protect the welder from the electrical line.  OSHA also determined that Metal Shredders’ parent company, Cohen Brothers, should be fined $21,000 for not training their personnel properly on how to protect against electrical hazards similar to what killed the welder in this fatal incident, which opened the doors for an OSHA investigation of the companies safety history and procedures.

The long history of conflicting interests of regulating governing bodies and entrepreneurs is sure to continue. However, efforts on the part of OSHA with local and national business leaders to cooperate and focus more on training and safety empowerment rather than the antagonistic “fine first, ask questions later” relationship that has historically existed have made some progress.  OSHA has a training institute that aims to provide tuition-based training courses for construction employees, managers, and others responsible for ensuring compliance.

There’s no question, owners of construction-related businesses have to a lot of things to worry about. The possibility of OSHA fines and other aspects of maintaining safe work environments can be impossible to balance with productivity and controlling costs.