18 Steps to Ladder Safety
Ladder safety would seem to be a matter of common sense. However, among construction professionals, high importance is placed on teaching workers the correct procedures to minimize risks to life and limb while using a ladder. Lost-time injuries and even fatalities due to ladder-related accidents are disturbingly widespread. As a home handyman, learn a lesson from the pros; follow these 18 simple tips to work safe.
Basic Ladder Safety Tips:
- Do NOT ever replace a ladder with a straightback or, even worse, a swivel chair.
- Make sure your ladder is in good shape, without any treads that are worn, loose, or missing. Other parts to check: the feet, stiles, platform, and locking mechanism.
- The manufacturer's instructions and warning labels are attached to the ladder for a reason. Read and follow them.
- Make sure that your body weight, together with your tools, does not exceed the ladder's duty rating (maximum load capacity).
- The treads of your ladder should be clean and free of grease, oil, or mud, as should your shoes.
- Your footgear should also have non-skid soles (not leather, which tends to be too slick).
- Set up your ladder so that all its feet are resting firmly on level ground or other solid, immovable surface such as a concrete floor. Avoid potentially slippery substances like spilled food or sand.
- Don't climb if you are faint, dizzy, off-balance, or under the influence of alcohol or sedatives (prescription or non-prescription). If you begin feeling overtired or unwell while you are atop the ladder, come down and take a break.
- If you will be using a stepladder to, say, clean the gutters or inspect your roof, always let someone else know of your plans.
- When working with an extension ladder, get a buddy's assistance for 2 reasons: to help carry a heavy ladder and to hold the bottom steady while you are climbing. However, never allow a second person on the ladder with you! An extension ladder longer than 16' should be secured at its top or base.
- Open your ladder fully and make sure the locking mechanism is engaged.
- Maintain a balanced position on the ladder. Do not climb past the 2nd rung from the top on a stepladder or the 4th rung on an extension ladder and don't lean too far left or right. (General guideline: make sure your belt buckle stays between the ladder's side rails.) Keep at least 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times -- either both hands and one foot, or vice versa.
- Ensure that your hands are free while you are ascending and descending the ladder. Carry tools and other essentials on a belt designed for that purpose, or use a lift to raise and lower them.
- If you position your ladder in front of a door or window, make sure that the opening is securely locked to avoid being suddenly pushed off balance.
- Two pieces of equipment that are too dangerous to manage while up on a ladder are a pressure washer and a roof rake. Use them only while standing safely on the ground.
- Choose a non-conductive wooden or fiberglass ladder when working around electrical power lines or equipment, rather than an aluminum one.
- Close and put away the ladder as soon as you are finished with it.
- Teach your children about ladder safety and never them to play on or around a ladder.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.
Updated October 22, 2018.
Looking for a Pro? Call us(866) 441-6648