When most people think about climbers, one of two images probably comes to mind. One of them is that of a mountain climber or rock climber ascending vertical terrain with the protection of a rope and other safety equipment. The other is that of a person who is devoted to ascending through the ranks of a business or society.
For a lot of people, it’s easy to overlook the fact that many other people climb every day as part of their jobs. These people aren’t out for glory or getting the next promotion; they’re out to build things, fix things, and make things work. They’re the people who are replacing roofs and siding, painting homes, washing windows on high-rise buildings, etc. Here at Formetco Hardware, where we specialize in billboards, hardware, and billboard safety equipment, we have a special interest in billboard climber safety.
To that end, we’ve written this article geared toward billboard owners and other business owners who might be hiring climbers for billboard installation, maintenance, and repairs. We’d like to look at the key things to remember when keeping your climbers safe. Those climbers are going to be on ladders a lot, so it’s important to know how to protect them.
One of the most common causes of accidents when climbing on ladders is using one that’s not tall enough for the job. When that happens, the climber can be tempted to stand on the top rung, which you should never do, or to reach too high or engage in other shenanigans to “make it work.” And that’s when bad things can happen.
This is a problem that occurs more typically among homeowners, but professional billboard and ladder climbers can be susceptible to it as well when the temptation to cut a corner and save some time even though a longer ladder may be right there at the truck
Identifying clear and potential hazards is another part of billboard climber safety. Are there power lines or tree limbs close by? If there are, it may not be safe to climb in that spot, especially in windy conditions.
Also, check for ground hazards such as mud, ice, vehicular and foot traffic, bushes, and gravel. Any of these could cause a ladder to slip or fall.
Being aware of the surroundings before you climb a billboard also includes checking the weather. Looking at the forecast isn’t enough; you need to know the signs of imminent rain, lightning, and other hazardous weather so that you can get down and off the ladder in time before the weather hits. And if the weather suddenly hits, as it sometimes does, get down as quickly as you can while using safe techniques; never remain on a wet ladder or one that might be struck by lightning.
No competent or respectable employer of billboard climbers is going to allow employees to climb without proper footwear, but we’re going to cover this anyway. You need to wear shoes or boots that have good grip and won’t slip. And if you’re a homeowner reading this, the same applies; every year, people climbing on ladders at home slip and fall due to wearing sandals, slippers, flip-flops, and even no shoes at all.
This is a rule whether you’re climbing a mountain, a massive cliff in Yosemite Valley, or a ladder. As much as possible, and that should be almost all of the time, you need to maintain three points of contact with the surface you’re climbing.
On a ladder when climbing a billboard, this usually means two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times. Some occasions may call or allow for using a knee as a third point of contact if both hands have to be free briefly. Carrying too many tools is one cause for ladder climbers putting themselves at risk; to reduce the risk of a fall from insufficient contact with a ladder, use a tool tray or a tool belt as you work and climb.
The three-points rule applies even if you are using gear designed to arrest a fall. It’s just a good habit to follow.
Another common cause of climbing accidents is ladders that tip because they aren’t stable. Whenever possible, place ladder bases on flat, solid surfaces at a proper angle away for the height. If the ground is uneven, then use ladder stabilizing equipment to help. Sometimes you can improvise if another person is available to spot and stabilize, or you may be able to make use of a flat rock or piece of wood.
Something else that can cause ladders to tip and fall is reaching too far over left or right to do your work. If you can’t safely reach a spot from a proper perch, then it’s time to come back down and move the ladder even if that does add some time to the job.
Properly cared for, ladders should last many years. All the same, you should inspect them before each use for cracks, bent or broken parts, and proper functioning. As solid as commercial-grade ladders and ladder equipment may seem, they are not absolutely bombproof.
As an employer of billboard and/or ladder climbers, one of the best things you can do for them is invest in climbing safety gear. Fortunately, Formetco Hardware has a wide variety of safety equipment to choose from.
To enhance vertical lifeline systems, we have cable safety sleeves, ladder grabs, and ladder stabilizers. For personal gear and accessories, we carry strong ultralight harnesses, hard hats, and helmet lanyards. There are also accessories such as adjustable wristbands, elastic tool lanyards, hoisting ropes, and safety poles.
And that’s not all. Whatever you need for billboard climbing safety, we’ve probably got it. Keeping your billboard climbers safe protects not just them but your business as well from fines, workman’s comp expenses, and lawsuits.