Domestic Decor and Garden Work? Why a Work Platform is Safer than a Ladder
Apart from domestic decorating and spring cleaning activities, working in the garden is the next most common use of ladders here in the UK. We've interviewed some orchard workers about how best to keep yourself safe when using a ladder for garden work such as pruning, fruit picking and hedge cutting.
When working in an orchard the priority is to reduce the number of accidents and injuries, hopefully to eliminate them altogether. Traditional orchard work is a pretty risky business and in the past orchard workers would set up a large ladder next to a tree, climb up it, pick the fruit and then climb back down again. The ladder would be moved around the same tree several times in order to access all the fruit on many branches.
The work would be slow and laborious and ladder injuries in the orchard industry were quite common. Throughout history until recent years, health and safety regulations were not in place to protect orchard and agricultural workers – if you were lucky, an enlightened orchard foreman may have told you to be aware of foot and ladder placement in order to avoid accidents, but this made little difference as many orchard workers had little experience of using ladders at all, let alone using ladders safely.
There’s very little difference between misusing a good ladder and properly using a defective ladder. Before using a ladder, it’s essential to ask whether this is the right type of equipment for the job at hand. Many orchards nowadays use platforms or scaffold towers as a safer alternative to ladders. Not only does a platform or scaffold increase work efficiency, injuries are far less likely to occur. There are plenty of work platforms available that are designed for domestic use and they represent a much safer and more versatile option than a ladder does. Anybody who does regular work at height in the house and garden should consider investing in a domestic work platform for added safety.
Using a work platform or scaffolding tower will eliminate some of the issues that come with using a ladder for garden/home décor work. If you’re working in a larger area, it cuts out the need to keep moving the ladder to the next work area. You’ll be able to reach a much larger work area which will do away with the temptation to over reach. Tools and equipment can be stored safely on the platform, leaving you with your hands free to work.
If you do decide to use a ladder to access tree branches and fruit, then it’s imperative that you don’t try to position a ladder against the trunk (or branches) of a tree. Instead, you should use a ladder that stands independently of the tree – an A frame structure ladder. You’ll need to do a pre-use safety inspection of the ladder before you start and make sure that the base of the ladder is resting on stable ground before use. Always climb up and down the ladder with both hands on the frame – don’t try to carry tools or a bucket (for fruit) in one hand – instead use a tool belt or hoist the tools up separately.