Even the thought of climbing a ladder can be scary for some people. The potential for falls and serious injury is enough for many homeowners to leave the gutter cleaning and holiday decorating to the pros. But if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, or you have to reach a high cabinet or replace a bulb in a ceiling fixture, you’re probably going to use a ladder.
Falls are the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths and the top cause of nonfatal injuries, according to Injury Facts. In 2017 – 2018, 36,338 people died from falls at home or at work.
Choose the Right Ladder
Using the wrong ladder can be dangerous. Think about the task at hand, choose the right size and style, and be sure to follow the directions on the ladder before you climb.
Consider these aspects of the job:
- How high do you need to reach?
- How much weight will the ladder need to hold?
- What is the environment in which the ladder will be used? Are there any electrical lines overhead?
The American Ladder Institute can help you choose the right ladder for the job.
Start With a Firm Foundation
No matter what kind of ladder you’re using, place the base on a firm, solid surface and avoid slippery, wet or soft surfaces.
- Never lean a straight or extension ladder against a window pane or other unstable surface; use a stabilizer and ladder leveler as needed
- A straight or extension ladder should be placed 1 foot away from the surface it’s resting on for every 4 feet of the ladder’s working length, the distance along the side rail from the ground to the top support point
- Securely fasten straight or extension ladders to an upper support
- Make sure stepladders are open completely before climbing
- Block or guard doorways near any type of ladder so no one can open it and knock you off
- Make certain the area is free of clutter both at the base and top of the ladder
- Never place a ladder on a box, barrel or other unstable base to gain additional height
Climb With Care
When people use ladders frequently at work or at home, they run the risk of becoming complacent. Make sure every time you step on a ladder you are mindful of the task at hand, have reviewed the labels on the ladder and confirmed that the ladder is in good working condition.
- Avoid using the ladder if you feel dizzy or tired or are impaired
- If using a ladder outside, do not use in windy or inclement weather
- Make certain the ladder is free of grease, oil, mud and other sticky or slippery materials
- Wear slip-resistant shoes with clean soles for maximum traction
- Face the ladder and always grip the rungs, not the side rails
- Always keep three points of contact with the ladder: Two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand
- Extension ladders should extend 3 feet above the roof or platform you’re trying to reach
- Do not stand higher than the step indicated on the label marking the highest standing level
- Don’t lean or overreach; reposition the ladder instead
- Do not move the ladder while in use
- Take your time when climbing down so you don’t skip any steps
- Don’t climb while carrying tools; use a tool belt
- Never have someone climb up to bring you something; only one person should be on a ladder at a time