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Safety Doesn’t Take a Holiday

by on December 5, 2019
Simmerer had a concussion after hitting the roof of his garage.

It was a fair November day four years ago when Brad Simmerer decided it was time to clean out the gutters on his two-story home north of Columbus.

Ridding his gutters of leaves was a task that Simmerer, network analyst lead for Telecommunications, completed many times before. He set up his 24-foot extension ladder, his wife serving as a spotter, and followed the rules of ladder safety – maintaining three points of contact, extending the ladder above the roofline, ensuring it was on stable, level ground.

Simmerer, who was 48 at the time, expected this to be a routine day of home maintenance.

After cleaning a few sections of gutter, Simmerer’s wife went inside to check on one of their children. Instead of waiting for her to come back, he decided to carry on without her spotting the ladder; after all, he had done this for years.

Simmerer doesn’t remember exactly what happened next, but he knows that as he was 20 feet in the air, the ladder slid out from under him. The crash came without warning, and it was unlike anything he expected. He did not fall sideways or backwards, as he always feared he might.

“I rode the ladder down,” he said. “I never thought the ladder would go out from under me.”

The ride down was not smooth, Simmerer crashed into the garage roof, bounced off and landed in the driveway.

Neighbors, who saw or heard the ladder fall, rushed to help.

“I thought I broke my shoulder. My back was also in a lot of pain,” Simmerer said. “I was hoping I wasn’t paralyzed. But then I could move my legs.”

An ambulance took him to a local hospital where doctors found that he had broken his left wrist and 10 ribs on his left side. There was also a large bump and cut on his head that led to a further diagnosis of a concussion.

“It put me out of work for six weeks,” he said, adding that it could have been much, much worse. “I got lucky.”

A neighbor made Simmerer this cookie as a ‘get well’ present.

Recovery wasn’t easy. Brad had to sleep in a chair for almost a month because he couldn’t get in and out of bed due to his broken ribs. He said it was at least six months before he felt fully recovered.

Brad wants everyone at this time of year, when people take out their ladders to clean gutters and hang holiday decorations, to take a moment and think about safety.

“Don’t be complacent,” he said. “I had done it for years without incident. You can get to the point where you think it won’t happen to me – it did.”

Ladder Safety Tips

Always inspect ladder prior to use.

  • Hold or secure ladder
  • Do not rest rungs against a round surface
  • Use three points of contact when climbing or descending.
  • Face the ladder, one person at a time on a ladder
  • No material in your hands
  • Belt off to a secured ladder if both hands are required to perform the task.
  • Do not lean off of ladder; keep the center line of your body inside the rails of the ladder and always face the ladder.
  • Beware of line of fire or changes of force that could cause the employee or ladder to fall.
  • Always use a hand-line or rope. Never throw objects off or up the ladder.
  • When pulling on lines such as service conductors, cable or rope, use limited force to avoid losing your balance if the line breaks, slips, or other equipment failure occurs. This situation poses the highest risk of injury.
  • If bees or wasps are present, step safely down from the ladder.
  • When working from a ladder where your feet are 12 feet or greater above the ground or the ladder support surface, a chin strap should be worn to keep your hard hat in place. This will reduce the risk of head injury if a fall does occur.

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