10 Safety Tips for Using a Ladder

10 Safety Tips for Using a Ladder

  • Jennifer Biffer
  • 09/20/22

Most homeowners are bound to use a portable ladder, whether for cleaning out the gutters, painting, inspecting the roof, or hanging festive holiday decorations. When up on that ladder, it’s essential to stay safe and avoid falls.

Every year, thousands of people across the country are treated in emergency rooms for ladder-related injuries. Although you might think you already know how to use a ladder safely, a little refresher from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission hurts far less than that quick “tip” from the top.

1. Use a ladder that’s the proper length for the job. It should extend 3 feet over the roofline or working surface. Never stand on the top three rungs of a straight, single, or extension ladder.

2. Make sure the ladder can support both your weight and the materials you’re putting on it by checking its maximum load rating. Allow only one person on the ladder at a time.

3. Place your ladder on level and firm ground. It’s also best to have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder.

My husband Robert fell victim to this one (pun intended) with a twist. Last spring he was trimming the orange trees that line the back of our property. He was out there by himself and the ground was grass so a bit unsteady. While leaning heavily to one side, about 4 feet up the ladder, just enough to get that tippy top point, a swarm of bees came flying out. Of course, he reacted like anyone about to be attacked by a swarm of potentially killer bees and attempted to juke the other way. Well, the juke was on him as the ladder tipped and he fell some 4 feet onto his shoulder. Considering he is 6’5″ that’s a pretty big fall. He now has an entirely new respect for ladders and we’ve found a very good beekeeper.

4. Never place a ladder in front of a door that isn’t locked, blocked, or guarded.

5. Because metal ladders can conduct electricity, don’t use them near power lines or electrical equipment. Stick with wood or fiberglass ladders in these situations and use extra caution. No type of ladder should ever touch live electric wires.

6. Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at about a 75-degree angle. To assess 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.

This tip inspired a healthy family debate. Verdict, it applies no matter the user’s height.

7. Check all rung locks and spreader braces on your ladder to ensure they’re set.

8. Keep your body always centered between the rails of the ladder. Leaning too far to one side while working is dangerous and can cause you to fall.

9. Only use a ladder for its intended purpose and follow the ladder’s instruction labels. Yes, they do have instruction labels.

10. When you’re done with the ladder, put it away immediately. Never leave a raised ladder unattended as it is a beacon for mischief.

This brief list doesn’t cover everything but remembering these tips and practicing caution can help keep you safe the next time you need to use a ladder.

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