Ladders are dangerous. Every year, more than half a million people are injured from falling off ladders, and about 300 people die from these falls annually. If you have a job that involves ladders, you should know what you’re doing. Here are 15 of the most important ladder safety tips that you should remember by heart if you don’t want to visit the ER any time soon.
Tip #1 Use the right kind
First things first. You obviously need the right ladder. Choosing the wrong one could be disastrous for you and the job you’re trying to do.
Ladders can be classified by what they’re made of and style. The most common are made from wood, fiberglass or aluminum. Wooden and fiberglass ladders are best for anything that involves being near electricity, like fixing wires or light fixtures or cleaning a gutter near a power source. Aluminum ladders conduct electricity but are often used because they are light weight and easier to maneuver. Never use an aluminum ladder near electric lines.
There is a wide variety of ladder styles with many suited to specific tasks. Single Pole, Extension, Step, Dual Purpose, Platform, and Multi-purpose Ladders. The most common styles of are extension and step ladders. It’s important to know the limitations of the ladder you are using so be sure to check the owner’s manual that is provided.
Ladders also have different load capacities. Their ability to withstand a certain amount of weight depends on their given grade or type. Check for your ladder’s grade on its sticker label. Typically they fall in these categories:
- Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty) 375 pounds
- Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty) 300 pounds
- Type I (Heavy Duty) 250 pounds
- Type II (Medium Duty) 225 pounds
- Type III (Light Duty) 200 pounds
Tip #2 Check for deformities, damage and defects
Once you’ve determined the right ladder, check it for anything that doesn’t look right, such as loose parts. Examine it for sharp edges, cracks and slippery rungs or steps. This may seem like an inconvenience, but the time to find a potential problem is while safely on the ground.
Tip #3 Inspect the area
For stability, place the ladder on a clean and clutter-free surface. Step ladders may need boards to keep them level and prevent sinking under load if they’re going to be placed on soft ground.
Don’t position the ladder in front of doors that open to the outside, unless it’s blocked or locked. You should also avoid leaning onto sprinklers or pipes that contain chemicals or fluids.
It’s also important to inspect the path necessary to put your ladder in place. This will help prevent damage to buildings or yourself.
Tip #4 Set the feet correctly
For extension ladders, their feet can be used two ways depending on the ground they’re perched on. The feet have to sit flat if they’re on a hard surface or flipped so the pointed tips can pierce the ground and hold the ladder steadily.
Additionally, some ladders also come with levelers for uneven surfaces. Check for this feature on the sides. Twist the rail that needs to be adjusted, and position the ladder accordingly.
Tip #5 Follow the 4 to 1 Rule for proper angle
For safety and stability, a ladder should have an angle of 75°. But since that’s difficult to approximate without the proper tools, there’s the 4 to 1 rule for straight ladders. This means that for every 1 foot away from the base, there’s a 4-feet increase to your ladder’s height. So for every four feet the ladder extends up it should be one foot away from the wall it’s leaning against.
One way to check the angle is to align your feet opposite of the ladder’s two rails. You should be able to place your arms straight forward without bending them. Your palms should be comfortably rested on one of the rungs.
Tip #6 Check your shoes
One of the most important ladder safety tips involves your good old shoes. Sometimes it’s not the ladder that causes the accidents. Shoes are huge culprits when it comes to falls. Check your soles for slippery debris. Paint, snow, ice, oil, or anything that might cause you to slip. Wipe them off completely or wear a new pair just to be safe.
Tip #7 Open step ladders correctly
One common mistake for stepladders is not opening them properly. To avoid a trip to the ER, open the ladder at the recommended angle and lock it securely. Double check this every time. Do not use a step ladder as a straight ladder.
Tip #8 Don’t go beyond the second step from the top
Ladders are not designed to support you at the top most rungs. Usually, there’s an obvious warning sign that can keep you from stepping over them because once you’re up there, your chances of falling off are much greater. But you still have to remember; never venture higher than the second step from the top.
Tip #9 Remember to have 3 points of contact
When it comes to ladder safety tips, the 3-point rule is always present. Remember to maintain 3 points of contact at all times. As you climb keep this 3 point contact going, two hands and one foot while you step and then two feet and one hand while you reach. Don’t hurry, that just leads to hurt.
Tip #10 Climb a ladder with both hands
Speaking of contact, always use both hands when climbing a ladder. Never do it one-handed while carrying something. Wear a utility belt for a safer climb. You can also have someone assist you for heavier loads or use a rope to pull up what you need.
Tip #11 Get firm support for leaning ladders
Ladders with stabilizers or standoffs are best for gutter cleaning. These secure the ladder at the top section and prevent the gutters from being crushed or dented. They’re also built with rubber “feet” to avoid slippage and to promote firm support. In some way secure the ladder so it won’t slide side to side.
Tip #12 Get off properly
As with climbing up, get down using both hands. Avoid jumping off if you’re still a few steps above the ground. Occasionally look down to see how far you still have to go. Don’t move while looking down.
Tip #13 Never sit on the steps
It should go without saying, never sit on the steps. You should always climb the ladder while facing it. By facing the ladder you’ll be able to maintain your balance.
Tip #14 Carry the ladder horizontally
Ladders should be moved with caution. After locking them in, carry them horizontally. This makes it easier for you to keep your balance. It will also prevent unexpected accidents involving tangled wires, tree branches, clothes lines and windows.
Tip #15 Have a buddy around
Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a friend around when you plan on climbing ladders. Buddies can help you with the lifting and support you during emergencies. Do keep someone around to assist you with your ladder-climbing task.
There are a lot of ladder safety tips. Don’t risk skipping any and suffering an accident. Ultimately, if you don’t feel comfortable with ladders and heights it’s best to just keep your feet on the floor! Leave the job to the professionals or just install gutters that don’t need cleaning at all! A quality gutter system such as LeafGuard is insurance for you and your family from someone suffering a fall.