Working safely with ladders in orchards

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9909696685_f145d27023_zThe pruning of trees, bushes and even hedges requires use of a ladder. In fact apart from working on a house, garden work is the next most common use for a ladder. Some of our valued customers are keen orchardists and have a thing or two to tell us about ladder safety and how they ensure both their own safety and that of their staff some of whom only work with them for a short time.

Reducing accidents

When working in orchards, the priority is to reduce accidents and and injury. Traditionally orchard work has been precarious in nature with dangerous ladder usage evident. In the past, orchard workers would set up a large ladder next to a tree, scale the ladder, pick the fruit and then descend. They would then move the ladder around the same tree often moving the ladder up to 5 times around a single tree. It comes as no surprise to learn that ladder injuries were a common occurrence.

The work was not only slow and precarious, health and safety briefing was extremely basic. If you were lucky, the orchard foreman might have instructed you to be aware of foot and ladder placement and tell you to be careful but this type of instruction did little to reduce accidents as many orchard workers had little or no experience of using a ladder safely.

Using ladders safely

There is little or no difference between misusing good ladders and properly using bad ladders. Before using a ladder it is essential to feel confident in it’s use. This means both setting it up and actually using it.

The first question to ask is whether a ladder is even needed. Many orchards now are opting for platforms (scaffold towers) as an alternative to ladders. Not only will a scaffold tower increase efficiency, the work is far less likely to cause injury. In fact, injuries from working on platforms are rare.

What ladder should I use?

If your work is smaller scale then a ladder may still be the practical option. Here at BPS Access Solutions, we highly recommend that you do not attempt to position a ladder against the tree trunk of any tree. We recommend using a ladder that is independent of the tree – i.e. one that stands independently in an ‘A frame’ structure. Our combination ladder is an excellent example and is designed for precarious jobs in mind. Our combination ladder is amongst the strongest and safest available on the market today and features a metal retaining brace and auto locking safety clamps.

Always ascend and descend the ladder with both hands on the frame. Never attempt to carry your tools or bucket in one hand. Use a tool belt or hoist your tools up separately. Never over lean or bend down from the ladder to retrieve a dropped tool. Never take risks with ladders. Injuries such as broken bones, injuries to backs, the pelvis or even death can occur from ladder misuse.

The benefits of a scaffold tower

Using a scaffold tower can alleviate many of the issues found with ladder work. If you are working across a larger area, you will not need to keep descending the ladder in order to move it to the next work area. Tools and equipment can be stored safely on the platform and you can walk freely in the work area without risk of injury to your feet or danger of over leaning. Scaffold towers are both rigid and stable and you do not need to worry about balancing on a ladder.
If you are finding a ladder hard work and you need to make faster progress, then a scaffold tower is likely to be a better option for you.

Always remember safety first

Regardless of whether you opt for a ladder or a scaffold tower, it is essential that you don’t use either of them unless you feel confident.

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