How to Use a Ladder Safely

Since I’m a do-it-yourselfer, you can sometimes find me standing on a ladder taking care of things around the house. Whether it’s changing a light bulb in a high ceiling, or cleaning leaves and tree branches off the roof after a storm, sometimes I have to use a ladder to get tasks done. A ladder is one of the simplest tools to use around your home. But, if it’s not used properly, you can easily find yourself making a trip to the emergency room. Before you get your ladder out to use it again, be sure that you know how to how to use a ladder safely.

1. Ladder Pre-Use Inspections
Never trust that a ladder is in good condition. Always inspect it before you use it. If it’s a wooden ladder, check the stiles (the vertical sides), and the rungs, or steps, for cracks or splits. Check the feet too, if applicable. Check all types of ladders- wooden, fiberglass, and metal- for loose or missing hardware or pieces. Make sure the stiles and rungs aren’t damaged in any way.

If you find missing parts or pieces, or a damaged area on your ladder, and you can’t fix it so it’s safe to use, then don’t use it. Briefly write the problem down in large, black letters on a piece of paper. Then securely attach the paper to the ladder. It will serve as a reminder to you that the ladder can’t be used safely. Plus, it will let others know about the problem so they don’t use it either. Then, borrow a ladder that’s in good condition from a neighbor or friend if you need to use it right away.

Later on when you have time, scrap your damaged ladder and replace it with a new, safer one to avoid falls and injuries.

2. Set Your Ladder Up Safely
There are two basic types of ladders that are normally used around the home. One type has two sides that pull out. The sides are then locked into place. These are usually known as “Step Ladders.” The ladder then stands alone on the ground. The second type of ladder is called a “Rigid Ladder.” It’s one long tool that’s set up against a building, tree, et cetera.

Before you can use a ladder safely, you must first have it set up correctly. Position the ladder so its feet are on the ground evenly. And, make sure the ground underneath the feet is firm. To test this, after you have your ladder set up, grab the stiles with your hands and climb up on the first rung, or step. Look at the feet of the ladder- they shouldn’t rock from side to side or from one side to the other. To prevent falls and injuries, the feet of the ladder shouldn’t sink down into the ground below them either.

Here are some other tips you should know about setting up a ladder safely:

1. Don’t use a ladder on a real windy day. Wait until the wind dies down before you set your ladder up.

2. Don’t set up your ladder on snow or ice. Use rock salt and a shovel to melt and remove the snow and ice first.

3. If at all possible, try to avoid setting your ladder up in front of a door. If it can’t be avoided, then have someone stand at the door to protect you and other from falls and injuries.

4. Never set up a metal ladder near electrical power lines. If you absolutely must work near power lines, to use a ladder safely, it’s recommended that you use a fiberglass ladder for this type of job. If the lines are 50,000 volts stay -at the minimum- ten feet away from the wires. If the wires are carrying a higher voltage than that, stay away at least thirty-five feet.

5. If your ladder is too short to do the job, don’t use it. Don’t try to raise it up by setting it on cement blocks or other materials. Instead, borrow or buy a longer ladder.

3. Climb A Ladder Safely
Now that you know your ladder is in good condition and you have it set up correctly, you’re ready to climb up, right? First, be sure you are wearing shoes or boots that have non-skid soles on them. Then, check the soles of your footwear to make sure there’s not mud, grease, oil, snow, ice, or other slippery materials on them.

To climb a ladder safely, face the ladder when you’re ascending or descending it. Grab the stiles with both of your hands and make sure you have a firm foothold before you climb up any higher.

Avoid falls and injuries by stepping on and off the rungs of your ladder; avoid jumping.

4. Use A Ladder Safely
If you must stay on the ladder to perform a task, stand in the middle of the rung. Don’t lean to one side or the other in an effort to reach farther that you can safely.

Ladders are generally meant to hold one person at a time. So, to avoid falls and injuries, limit the load to one person at a time.
To use a ladder safely, never stand on the very top of a ladder. Stand only as high as the second rung from the top.

And finally, never leave your ladder set up unattended. Curious children – and even pets! – can climb up a ladder faster than you may realize.

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