The idea of using a ladder might not seem like something that warrants deep thought, but did you know that most ladder deaths are from falls of 10 feet or less? So, while you might think that you already know how to use a ladder, now’s a good time to review ladder "dos and don’ts" so that you can install your Christmas lights safely.
1. Make sure your ladder is in good condition
Cracks and splits in the steps or rungs are more common than you may think!
2. Set up the ladder on a clear and level surface
Check for ice, snow, and sloping ground. Make sure spreader braces and rung locks are set and secure.
3. Utilize the 4:1 ratio
This refers to the correct angle to place the ladder and is calculated by making sure that the distance from the base of the ladder to the surface the ladder is propped against is NO LESS than a quarter of the distance from the ground to the top support point (where the ladder rests against the building).
In order to test if you have the correct angle, stand up straight with your toes touching the feet of the ladder as it leans away from you. Extend your arms in front of you. Your palms should touch the top of the rung that’s at shoulder level.
4. Climb facing the ladder
Move one step/rung at a time and firmly set one foot before moving the other.
5. Use 3 points of contact at all times
By this we mean two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand.
1. Set up a ladder on a contaminated or uneven surface
Examples of these could be a box, barrel, loose bricks, or another unstable base.
2. Exceed the ladder's maximum load rating
All ladders have one- make sure you check! The average man is 200lbs and the average weight rating for a light duty step ladder is 200lbs. If the giant crock pot your wife wants you to put back on the top shelf is 10lbs, then don’t do it!
3. Lean out beyond the ladder's side rails
This will make the ladder unstable and greatly increase your chances of the ladder tipping or slipping out sideways. Climb down and reposition the ladder closer to your work.
Other Ladder Safety Tips
1. If you are climbing from the ladder to another surface, make sure the ladder extends three feet past the platform being climbed onto.
2. Have someone help you - whether it’s a quick job or a lengthy process, a spotter gets you bonus safety points. Conversation makes the time go by faster anyways!
3. Learn your ladder. Each style of ladder is slightly different. Step ladders and extension ladders may have some of the same basic principles when it comes to safety, but there are features that make them different from one another. Ensure you familiarize yourself with the how they should be operated.
4. Trust your instincts! Don’t work on a ladder if you think the conditions are unsafe or if you feel uncomfortable. In most cases, you won’t know you are uncomfortable until you are already on your ladder. It’s totally OK to realize your mistake, stop what you are doing and get back to the ground safely without completing the task. Your safety comes first, no matter what!