Seven Ladder-Safety Tips for Do-It-Yourselfers

Seven ladder-safety tips for do-it-yourselfers and health and safety officersEvery year in the United States over 250,000 homeowners need to visit the hospital emergency room because they fell off a ladder. If you are going to clean out gutters, check the roof after a storm or put up lights at Christmas, you need to get up high enough to do the work.

Ladders make it easy to move up and down, but they also make it easy to fall.

Cuts and bruises are the least of the injuries. Falling off a ladder can result in broken bones, twisted ankles, torn ligaments, concussions, internal injuries (especially if the homeowner falls on an object), paralysis, and even death.  You can get really hurt on a ladder. Using one takes common sense, good equipment and patience.

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If you need a platform to do your fix-it job, the ladder isn’t the equipment you need. They aren’t made for that. The job of a ladder is to get you safely up and down the side of your home.

If you are painting, check into scaffolding at the home improvement store. It will give you a sturdy, safe surface to stand on while you get the job done.

Conducting Ladder Maintenance

A routine check before getting on the ladder can save you from injury. It takes a lot of wear and tear over the years, which can result in damage affecting its safety.

Look at the nuts and bolts to make sure they are securely fastened. Check for deep dents or twists in the frame. These will affect its stability. Make sure the treads are clean, not torn and still provide a good grip for your feet.

Clean the ladder after each use. Get rid of dirt and grass that can get embedded in the treads. Remove rust and tighten loose screws.

Tip # 1: Put it on a stable surface

Even the best ladder needs to be set on solid ground to balance correctly. Choose your spot carefully. Mulch isn’t flat. Soil can have rocks in it. Even concrete might be cracked. Examine the surface carefully before putting up the ladder.

Tip # 2: Lock the spreaders into position

It the spreaders are locked correctly, the ladder can safely take your weight. Make sure each spreader has no bend at all in it. Otherwise, it can buckle and give way while you’re on it.

Tip # 3: Remember three points of contact

Make sure you always have at least three points of contact at minimum between you and the ladder. This can be two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot. Never remove both hands. Removing two feet boggles the mind.

Tip # 4: Only put your feet on the treads

Don’t put paint buckets and tools on the treads. These will interfere with the grip your shoes get on the ladder, causing you to trip and fall. Use a hook on the side to hang paint cans or a tool carry-all.

Tip # 5: Make sure it’s tall enough

Your ladder should extend at least two feet above the spot where it leans against your home. Be sure to keep it at least 10 feet away from all power lines.

Tip S# 6: Reposition the ladder if you need to reach far

fctc-online-bannerDon’t lean out, stretch or reach beyond what is safe. Your center of gravity is compromised. Always position yourself so your belly button is between the sides of the ladder. Avoid accidents, take the extra few minutes to reposition the ladder closer to where you’re working.

Tip # 7: Follow the one-to-four rule for extension ladders

Always set an extension ladder one foot from the base of your house for every four feet you climb vertically. This way the you won’t tilt backward when you reach the top most rungs.

Even health and safety officers sometimes forget. In the video below, a British health and safety officer who worked for a housing maintenance firm in Gateshead, England learned ladder safety the hard way.  Although not seriously hurt, he was subsequently suspended pending an investigation by the director of health and safety for his firm.

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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.