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Safe Ladder Operations Part 3

When carrying tools up a ladder the number of tools carried should be limited to one, and consideration to size and weight must also be given. If it is too bulky or heavy another method should be deployed for accomplishing the task such as use of an aerial platform or hoisting the equipment by use of ropes. When climbing a ladder with a tool the tool should be slid or pushed along the beam, remembering that there is a compromise to your safety, as you do not have a good grasp on the ladder with the hand holding the tool.

Overloading of ladders should be avoided. The newer ladders give detailed information on the weight loading permitted on the ladder and all personnel should comply with this information. The rule of thumb has always been one firefighter on a straight wall ladder and one firefighter per section on an extension ladder, and it is still a good rule of thumb. When more than one firefighter is climbing a ladder, a ten-foot distance between firefighters should be maintained. There rarely is a reason for firefighters to be bunched up on a ladder unless affecting a rescue. In a rescue situation it is advisable to place another ladder immediately adjacent to the first ladder and have a second rescuer assist from the second ladder. This will provide for better control of the victim and a safer environment for all concerned. The last thing you would want to do is have a ladder collapse or lose control wherein everyone falls to the ground. It has happened!

Flat roof operations require the use of a minimum of 2 ladders placed at opposite locations of the building in order to provide for alternate means of escape should one exit route become blocked. Ladders placed to flat roofs should extend a minimum of 3 feet above the roofline so they may be readily visible and accessible for firefighters operating on the roof. It is a good practice to paint the last couple of feet on the top of the ladders in a bright or fluorescent color to enhance their visibility. Painting the tip also makes it easy to tell the fly from the butt when the adrenalin is rushing or for those who may have difficulty discerning the top from the bottom. When working on a peaked roof, a roof ladder with hooks should be used. The hooks should be opened and the ladder slid up the roof into position, followed by a test pull of the roof ladder to ensure the hooks have secured to the ridge and the ladder is firmly in place prior to using. A roof ladder should extend from the ridge to beyond the eaves if at all possible in the event there is a roof collapse the ladder will maintain its position rather then falling into the opening. Once again work from the windward side so that fire and smoke are blown away from you, not towards you.

Getting on and off the ladder are two critical periods in the use of ladders. When climbing onto a roof, fire escape, etc. make sure where you intend to go is stable and will support you prior to transferring to the location. Feel with one hand or a tool to check for sturdiness, follow this by placing one foot slowly onto the roof while increasing the pressure. If it appears to hold your weight, move the second foot onto the roof, followed by releasing the grip on the ladder with your other hand. At any point in the transition, should the roof feel insecure, get back on the ladder. Always be sure there is floor or roof where you intend to go, and be careful when attempting roof access on some of the older buildings in the downtown areas. Many have high parapet walls in front with a big drop to the roof, therefore look before leaving the ladder. In addition, you will be faced with having to find another way down from the roof if you haven’t been injured from the fall.

Regular maintenance of all ground ladders is required and they should be thoroughly checked , including rungs, pulleys, and halyards. Annual testing in accordance with NFPA Standard 1931, Design and Verification Tests for Fire Department Ground Ladders is recommended.

Till next time, Stay Safe and God Bless!

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Gordon WrenCorrespondent

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