Module 2 Physical Safety
- Describe important safety considerations when choosing work clothing such as shoes, shirts, pants, coveralls, and hats.
- Discuss the characteristics of good inspection lights and respirators.
- Describe how to set up a ladder safely.
- Explain how to safely climb and dismount a ladder.
- List 4 safety considerations for entering an attic crawl space.
- Describe 3 considerations for handling animals safely.
Terms to Know
Personal protective equipment (PPE) Gear worn to protect people from pesticides, contaminants, and mechanical injury (boots, gloves, goggles, Tyvek suits, respirators).
Respirator A device designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts and particles (some that might carry bacteria or fungi that could cause disease), fumes, vapors, or gases.
This module provides information on physical safety to prevent injuries to NWCOs while doing their jobs in unfamiliar and hazardous environments. Follow state and local guidelines for fall-protection equipment, especially when working on roofs and ladders. Follow all vehicle safety laws and regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Use the methods and equipment described in this module to perform WDM safely.
The work of a NWCO is physically demanding and exposes employees to potential threats to their physical well-being. A NWCO who is physically fit will find tasks much easier to perform.
When you start the day, check your physical well-being with the “I’M SAFE” criteria used by pilots:
- Fatigue, and
If you experience any of the symptoms of “I’M SAFE” then you should not proceed with strenuous activities or climbing.
Risks Associated with Wildlife
When some wild species move in, they can put customers and their property at risk. Some people don’t understand the possibilities until it is too late. Others overreact. By offering credible information in a professional manner, you can help your customers make sensible decisions.
Some wildlife pose threats to human health and safety. Rodents, raccoons, and birds can cause fires by chewing wires or blocking vents or fans with their nests. Fan motors can overheat and ignite highly flammable nest materials. If a nest blocks a chimney, dangerous fumes can be trapped inside. Chewed wires may cause electronic systems to fail — imagine the consequences in a jail or hospital. Wildlife may collide with airplanes and cars and some are vectors of deadly diseases.
You, your customers, their pets, and livestock might be bitten, scratched, or exposed to a wildlife disease, such as rabies. Most NWCOs are more likely to encounter a wildlife disease than the average person, because they often handle wild animals, and spend a lot of time in disease hot spots such as attics and crawl spaces. The fur, dander, droppings, and parasites of wild animals also can trigger allergies in some people. Wild animals often are noisy at night, which might deprive your customers of sleep. That doesn’t sound too bad, until it happens night after night after night.
Wildlife damage can also hit people in the pocketbook. To gain entrance to a building, some animals destroy parts of the exterior. Once inside, they might chew or soil woodwork and other materials. In particular, items stored in attics are vulnerable. Raccoons and mice often ruin insulation, causing heating and cooling bills to rise. Chewed wires, of course, will need replacement, which can be expensive.
Some of the wildlife removal methods present hazards of their own to people and the environment. An improperly set trap may capture or injure the wrong animal, and could even be hazardous to people. If misused, toxicants can be a hazard to people, pets, livestock, and other non-target wildlife. In addition, pesticides can contaminate water, soil, and air. Even exclusion, one of the favored WDM methods, has risks associated with it. A highly motivated animal may damage the building to get back in, especially if its young are inside.
Environmental risks include working in hazardous weather conditions and exposure to unknown or unseen materials and substances, such as asbestos (Figure 1). Other risks include unseen or unknown structural problems, and electrocution from damaged or unseen electrical lines.
Risks in WDM are associated with:
- handling animals
- wildlife diseases
- working with equipment
- environmental conditions
- on-the-job work practices
- legal and ethical challenges
Reducing Risks Related to Equipment
The tools that are necessary for any particular job can pose risks to the user. For example, setting up a 32-foot ladder presents the risk of back injury as you place the ladder, and the risk of falling from the ladder when using it. The proper use of quality equipment prevents many injuries. Always choose quality equipment rated for the level of activity that is needed. Keep all equipment in optimal working condition, read and follow all manufacturer instructions, and obtain training whenever possible.
Remember the old proverb, “familiarity breeds contempt” when dealing with safety issues. Pay attention to what you are doing. When you become comfortable, you may become complacent and careless. This often results in injuries. The best safety equipment is useless if the NWCO lacks awareness of the threats posed by misuse of the equipment.
Shoes should cover your entire foot and be comfortable to wear. Soles should be soft to reduce damage to roofs and slip resistant to reduce the risk of falling. Safety shoes with impact-resistant toes and insoles protect against injury.
Shirts should be comfortable and loose fitting to allow freedom of movement in tight areas. Wear a long-sleeved shirt or jacket for protection from the sun, abrasion, and other environmental hazards.
Pants should be comfortable and allow for full leg movement. Choose pants made of material resistant to abrasion from kneeling and squeezing into small spaces. Generally, long pants are preferred.
Disposable coveralls should be used in areas that could be contaminated with diseases or when working with toxicants. If you use any pesticides such as toxicants or repellents, follow the label regarding use and laundering of clothing.
Hats and helmets are useful for protecting your face from the sun and cushioning bumps to the head. Hats are particularly necessary to protect the eyes of those who wear corrective lenses. Choose hats with adjustable clasps. Helmets provide added protection in case of a fall and reduce the risk of puncture injuries.
Situations Requiring Caution and Equipment:
Entering attics and crawl spaces requires:
- leather gloves,
- half-mask respirator,
- head-lamp, a second light, and
- eye protection.
The use of power tools requires:
- eye protection, ear protection, and
- dust mask or half-mask respirator.
The use of ladders requires:
- choice of the right ladder,
- ensuring it is firmly planted,
- attaching tie offs or ladder straps,
- consideration if you need help, and
- awareness of power lines.
Handling animals require:
- leather gloves, and
- other items such as cat tongs or catch poles.
Flashlights and good lighting are critical for safety. In fact, good lighting can prevent the need to enter hazardous situations. Three types of lights will be useful in most jobs.
- A general inspection light can be a simple, hand-held light used to illuminate closets and walking areas (Figure 2).
- Special inspection lights must provide at least 500,000 candles of illumination. They are powered by rechargeable batteries and will illuminate dark areas during daylight hours.
- Head lamps are useful when your hands need to be free, such as when inspecting an attic or crawl space, joists, or under a deck.
Knee pads protect your knees when crawling in attics and crawl spaces.
Leather gloves have many uses. All NWCOs should have a pair for general protection and a thicker pair for handling animals. Some NWCOs prefer welder’s gauntlets. Select gloves that you actually will wear. Leather gloves should be large enough to fit over latex or nitrile gloves worn underneath (Figure 3). We recommend that you always wear gloves while performing any wildlife control activity.
A respirator may be one of the most frequently used pieces of safety equipment that you carry to the job. Before using a respirator, obtain a medical evaluation to ensure you are healthy enough to use it. Proper fit testing is essential. A good feel does not necessarily mean a mask has a good seal. Replace filters according to manufacturer recommendations. Select a half-face respirator with a particulate-filtering face piece (Figure 4) rated at N100 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This respirator will be sufficient for most general inspections of attics and basements.
Use a full-face mask when performing cleanouts of attics or basements, or when the risk of airborne dust is high. OSHA requires employers to establish and maintain an effective respiratory protection program for employees. The respiratory protection program will cover medical evaluations, fit testing, training, cleaning and maintenance of respirators, and evaluation of the program evaluation. Consult OSHA.gov for the latest guidelines on how to implement this requirement.
Keep a first aid kit in your service vehicle. Cuts and scrapes occur daily. A kit should include Band-Aids®, gauze bandages, tape, antiseptic ointment, and triangular bandages.
Waterless hand sanitizer reduces the risk of infection when soap and water is not available. Choose a brand containing at least 60% alcohol. Smear a light coating over your hands to kill bacteria. Work it around your hands and between your fingers until they are dry. Cloth wipes have the added benefit of helping to scrub away organic material where germs can hide.
Helmets that fit properly can help to protect your head in crawl spaces and attics. Helmets seldom are worn by NWCOs in residential settings. They are cumbersome and sometimes a detriment when they obstruct your view. Helmets diminish headlamp light unless you have a hardhat with a headlamp built in. Occasionally, a commercial contract will require you to wear a hardhat while on the jobsite.
A bump cap provides an alternative to a helmet. They offer no protection from falling objects, nor are they rated for electrical protection. They offer sufficient protection, however, for crawl spaces and attics.
Eye protection is critical when working with materials that can spray or fall into your eyes. Wear a full-face mask if biologically hazardous dust, aerosolized feces, or other potential contaminants are present.
A medical history will alert your doctor to consider some of the wildlife-related diseases that normally are not considered for other patients. Tell your doctor that you are in contact with wildlife in your occupation.
The term “ladder” will refer to all devices used to reach elevated or descended distances. Choose ladders rated 1 or 1A for industrial use. You should have a 6- to 8-foot stepladder for entering attic crawl spaces, a 14- to 18-foot ladder for one-story structures, and a 28- to 32-foot ladder for two-story structures.
Ladder tie offs attach ladders to gutter spikes to prevent sliding. Wind gusts can push ladders off structures, leaving you stranded on the roof. A falling ladder also may hit someone on the ground.
Stabilizers can reduce lateral motion by widening the contact of a ladder with a structure (Figure 5). Some stabilizers are constructed to allow you to place each leg on a separate wall at the corner of a house.
Fall-protection equipment may be needed for some jobs. Situations that involve steep roofs and elevated platforms require special equipment such as a rope, lanyard, and harness. Use a rope rated for climbing. These tools are outside the scope of this module, but you should be aware they exist. Seek proper training in the use and selection of fall-protection equipment and use it when appropriate.
Ladder straps anchor the base of a ladder to poles or other secure objects to prevent ladder kick outs (when the base of the ladder dislodges from the ground).
Protect ladders from the elements. Ladders should be stored by themselves. Nothing should be placed on top of ladders. Follow manufacturer guidelines on the storage of ladders to prevent warping and other damage.
Basic Ladder Safety
Choose the correct ladder for the situation. Ensure each ladder is rated for the total amount of weight it will bear when in use. Several options are available, including step ladders, extension ladders, platform ladders, and mechanical lifts. If you will be on a roof, you may need to use fall-protection equipment.
Check all ladders for damage and defects before each use. Ladders should not be bent. They should not have splinters, damaged welds, or loose or damaged parts. The rubber fittings on the feet of a ladder should be in good condition. If they are not, replace them. Check stabilizers and levelers. Replace unsafe parts with parts approved by the ladder manufacturer. If you are in doubt about the integrity of a ladder, mark it as unsafe and properly dispose of it.
Before moving a ladder into place, check the area for potential hazards such as holes, ledges, power lines, tree limbs, or other items that could impede safe placement of the ladder. Get help if you need assistance in placing the ladder safely. As a rule, ladders taller than 16 feet (extending to 32 feet) require two workers. Never drag or drop a ladder. Ensure that the ladder is level and properly stabilized so it will not wobble.
Never stand on the top 3 rungs of a ladder. All steps and rungs should be clean and free of debris or other items that could cause slips. Never lean or reach to the side; your shirt pockets should not extend beyond the sides of the ladder.
Never move a ladder while you or anyone else is standing on it. Always move or reposition a ladder while you are standing on the ground. Check for anything that could interfere with climbing and descending a ladder. Always have your hands free when climbing a ladder. Raise and lower items with a rope and bag or bucket while on a ladder.
Vibration and jostling can damage ladders. Install heavy-duty ladder racks on service vehicles. Quality ladder racks protect the ladder from damage and reduce the likelihood of losing a ladder. Always check that ladders are secured properly to the vehicle before leaving the service site.
Basic Step Ladder Safety
Select a step ladder appropriate in height and use for your situation. Reduce fatigue by using a platform step ladder when you will remain in one location for an extended period of time. Fully extend and press the locks into place before climbing. Only stand on rungs designed to be used as steps. Never stand on the top 2 steps or use a step ladder when it is closed. Always stand in the middle of each step.
Basic Extension Ladder Safety
Follow manufacturer instructions for placing ladders at a safe angle. For a roof edge that is 20 feet high (rise), the base of the ladder should be 5 feet out from the eave (run) to achieve a 4:1 rise-to-run ratio (Figure 6). The top of the ladder should extend 3 feet above the roof. To test for proper alignment of the ladder, place your feet at the base of the ladder and extend your arms straight forward and parallel to the ground. If the angle is appropriate, the palms of your hands should reach a rung on the ladder.
Ensure that the locks on a ladder are engaged before climbing. Properly secure the ladder to a strong structure, especially if you are going to step off the ladder onto a roof or if you will be working on the ladder for any length of time. Keep the bottom of the ladder from slipping by using braces, ladder straps, or an anchor board. Secure the top of the ladder to the structure with tie offs to prevent horizontal sliding. Free training on basic ladder safety is available online at http://www.wernerladder.com.
Anchoring Tips – Prevent Kick Out
with Extension Ladders
- Move a vehicle bumper close to the base of a ladder.
- On a deck or wooden surface, get permission to anchor a 2 x 4 board behind the ladder with screws.
- On soil, use long stakes to anchor the base of the ladder to the ground. First call Dig Safe NY at 811 or 1-800-962-7962 to locate underground utilities.
- The ladder must be as firm as possible. The base must be flat, level, and secure. Use equipment to stabilize the base if the ladder is on uneven ground. If you cannot secure the base, choose another place for the ladder.
- Inspect equipment frequently and do not use damaged ladders. Replace lanyards and harnesses after a fall.
- Pad ropes so they do not chafe against roof edges.
- Be aware of electrical services to avoid electrocution. Use fiberglass ladders when working near power lines. Ask an electrical company to shield wires.
Climbing and Dismounting
The likelihood of falling from a ladder is not related directly to your size or weight. Climb slowly and surely. Always face the ladder and do not lean off the side. Keep 3 parts of your body in contact with the ladder at all times, including both hands and a foot or both feet and a hand. Knees do not count as a point of contact.
Do not carry heavy or bulky items as you climb. Pull items up with a towline, attach them to your tool belt, or have them handed to you. Wear shoes with strong soles and keep them clean for maximum traction. If you do not feel safe on a ladder, do not continue. Rent a bucket lift (Figure 7). The rental agency will provide instructions.
Dismount by stepping sideways onto the roof. The ladder should extend 3 feet above the edge of the roof to eliminate the option of stepping over the ladder. Temperature fluctuations in the spring and fall can cause slippery conditions due to condensation. To check traps or other devices without climbing onto a roof, fasten a car side-view mirror onto a long pole. Raise the pole to see the trap or device from the ground.
Carry a cell phone and have 2 people present on jobs with extensive ladder work. For more details on the proper use of ladders, see the OSHA website (www.osha.gov). Other sources of advice include the building industry and ladder manufacturers. Roofers have extensive, relevant experience working with ladders.
Basic Attic and Crawl Space Safety
If you plan to work in attics and crawl spaces, take an OSHA-certified training course for working in confined spaces. In general, keep a supply of drinking water handy. Beware of heat stress, especially in hot weather when in an attic or crawl space. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Always carry 2 sources of light and have 2 people present. Wear clean gloves so you do not leave smudge marks on paint.
Ask your client to clear the area to allow access to attic and crawl spaces. Perform an exterior inspection to reduce the need to enter an attic or crawl space.
If entry is required, you may be fortunate to have a staircase that leads to the attic. In many cases, you probably will need a ladder so try to avoid falling. To protect yourself from falls, use a ladder brace, ropes or bungee cords, and helmet or head protection.
Put on a HEPA filter mask or the equivalent before opening the attic hatch. Wear it when in the attic and while conducting clean-outs.
Whenever possible, distribute your weight on 2 joists while holding onto rafters (Figure 8). If possible, create a path by laying 2 x 6- or 2 x 8-inch boards across the joists and anchoring them with screws. The boards provide a stable platform and will distribute your weight more evenly. Joists can flex and break. If you sense the joists are bowing too much or seem too weak to hold your weight, DO NOT CONTINUE. Leave the attic immediately.
Carefully shine a light around the entire attic or crawl space and look for signs of animals. Attics and crawl spaces can have other hazards such as protruding nails, old or damaged wiring, previous use of toxicants, and fiberglass.
Injuries from Wildlife
Wild animals are unpredictable and many NWCOs have underestimated the strength, quickness, and agility of animals. While an attack from an animal is unlikely, it can occur when animals are startled, such as when your head emerges into an attic or crawl space. Animals can cause injury through bites and scratches.
Keep your distance from animals. You cannot be bitten or scratched if the animal cannot touch you. In addition, distance helps reduce the likelihood of ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, etc.) moving from the animal to you. If you cannot keep your distance, use tools such as catch poles, snake tongs, or cat graspers. When there appears to be a choice between being bitten and the animal escaping, let the animal get away.
When trapping, use professional grade traps with 1 x ½-inch mesh and oversized handle guards to prevent getting clawed. Wear protective clothing such as heavy gauntlet gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when handling traps with animals. Cover the trap with a cloth to help calm a captured animal and to protect yourself as you carry it. Hold the trap away from your body.
Unseen Danger – Caged Animals on Roofs
One of the most dangerous activities facing NWCOs is to carry a caged animal while climbing down a ladder. Carrying a cage on a ladder violates the “3 points of contact” rule, as you will be using the ladder with only one hand. The weight shift that occurs when an animal moves from one end of the trap to the other is another danger. The weight shift can cause you to lose your balance, drop the animal, and fall. This is a particular risk when working with raccoons, which have a tendency to move from one end of the trap to the other when they see the ground below. Instead, use a towline to lower the caged animal.
More to Consider:
- Check the OSHA website (osha.gov) for more information about respirators and fall protection.
- Find out which types of wasps most frequently sting people. Are there any harmless insects that could be mistaken for them?
- Take training in first-aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
- Study the wildlife diseases module in this manual.
- Become familiar with the dangers of using chemicals, repellents, and toxicants.
Study Questions for Physical Safety
Questions for Reflection
- Draw a diagram or use numbers to show the recommended angle and height needed to position a ladder safely against a building.
- List 3 tips for the safe use of ladders.
- List 4 pieces of safety equipment and explain their use.
- Describe how you would prepare yourself to enter an attic.
- How many sources of light should you carry into an attic or crawl space?
- When should you first put on your respirator?
- before opening an attic hatch
- before putting your head into an attic
- after entering an attic
- when you perform clean up in an attic
- all of the above
- Extension ladders should extend at least _____ feet above the roof line
- Your ladder bows 2 to 3 inches as you climb. What should you do?
- stop using the ladder and get one rated for your weight
- keep working because modern ladders are designed to bow
- keep working because ladders are rated to carry weights above what they say is safe
- get over your fear of heights
- The following techniques are useful to prevent ladder injuries
- ladders rated for weight
- tie offs
- right ladder length
- all of the above
- b and c only