Safety on ladders and stairways.   New and improved method of avoiding falls from ladders, stairs and equipment:  3 Points of contact!

Work place injuries are a plague on business: Loss of a valuable employee, down time or slower progress on the project, economic costs.  You’ve heard it all before.  You know this first hand as a business owner, supervisor or employee.  You’ve also heard dozens of suggestions, all the “safety wizards” have ideas, told you about this new safety gadget or this safety idea.  But here’s one with which you may not be familiar and it’s easy. Best part, your employees already have all the necessary equipment.  Hands and feet.  Yup, you heard right. Hands and feet.  This equipment will serve you well on safety on ladders and stairways.

Three points of contact:

Best part, the training takes about 5 minutes.   So, what is this great “new safety” secret, 3 points of contact?   2 hands and a foot or 1 hand and 2 feet.  The hazard this safety topic addresses is falls from ladders, stairways and entering/existing equipment. (Equipment includes front end loaders, fork lifts, dozers, excavators, pretty much any equipment requiring entering or exiting.)  This in New Miner Safety Training.


Falls are one of OSHA’s biggest targets. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction.  (350 fatal falls to lower level out of 937 construction fatalities, 2015.)   Ever hear of a fatality due to falls occurring from equipment?  Me neither. But, as a safety manager for several companies over the years I’ve certainly handled injury claims due to falls from employees entering or exiting equipment or falling from ladders.  And you know what?  Every one of these types of injuries took weeks and months for recovery.  (The human body is simply not designed to take the impact sustained from a fall.)  Safety on ladders and stairways, it’s a small thing but a big deal.

How does this safety practice prevent injuries?  3 Points of contact greatly reduces falls.  3 points of contact.  Here is the training lesson:  When using a ladder, going up or down stairs or entering or exiting a piece of equipment (see list above) employee must use 2 hands and a foot while moving the other foot OR 2 feet fixed on the stepping surface while moving a hand.  In other words, moving up or down on a ladder, stairway or entering/exiting equipment 3 of points of contact must be maintained at all times.  That’s it. Simple.  Safety on ladders and stairways is simple.  Now for a few true 3 point of contact stories from the field.

I’d just completed a short safety training for some of our crews on 3 points of contact.  About an hour later I get a call that one of our employees fell from a ladder.  The employee was climbing up a ladder while carrying some tools up in one of his hands.  He fell about 10 feet.  He was on modified duty for 4 months.  He was in my 3 points of contact class an hour before falling. Seriously??????????  (BTW, if you need take equipment up or down, use some means of conveying such items like a bucket or other container holding the tools/parts, tie same to a rope, pull up or lower once you are stopped on the ladder/stair/equipment.  But at all times your hands need be free to hold, with both hands, the railing/ladder/stairway railing.)

Another true field safety story.  A front-end loader employee was exiting his equipment.  He climbed down to the second to the last step and then “hopped” down the rest of the way.  Sadly, his athletic skills were somewhat lacking and twisted his ankle upon landing.  3 weeks modified duty.  3 points of contact.  It’s not difficult concept to grasp or employ.  The few extra seconds needed to employee 3 points of contact will save weeks of time wangling the work comp claim, injury, loss of a valued employee and possibly, long term injury.

So, get a grip! Teach your employees about 3 points of contact.  No special equipment is required, employees already come equipped with the necessary tools.  3 points of contact is a simple safety concept.

Greg Gerganoff, CSP, Rocky Mountain Safety Consulting, Inc., 303 330 4616,

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