When using a stepladder or an extension ladder, there are some easy-to-follow safety guidelines that need to be respected in order to keep you working, and out of the ER.
Ladder safety begins before you step onto the first rung. Take a good look at your ladder before climbing on to ensure each rung is secure and free from slippery debris. Also, inspect your ladder’s ropes, pulleys, and locking mechanisms to see if they are working properly, and remember to check the ladder’s footings for proper traction. Remember, even if a problem appears minor during your inspection, it could pose a serious safety risk when you climb onto the upper rungs. Always err on the side of caution.
Once you’ve determined that the ladder is safe, it’s time for another round of inspections. This time, you need to examine thoroughly the surface you will use to set up the ladder. Look for an area that is level, stable, and free from small stones or other debris. Never place a ladder atop bricks or other props to keep it out of mud or to even out the surface, as these can easily slide or shift, causing the ladder to tumble.
Now you are ready to climb aboard and get to work. Construction experts recommend that ladders should extend at least three feet above its upper support point, to ensure stability. When using an extension ladder, remember to keep a 1:4 ratio. For example, the base of an 8-foot ladder should be two feet away from the support structure. On stepladders, never climb on until the stays or cross-braces have been locked securely.
When climbing up or down ladders, make sure to keep your torso facing the ladder, with your hands free of anything that could prevent you from getting a secure grip. Roofers and builders follow a three-point rule, keeping at least one hand and two feet or both hands and one foot on the rungs when climbing. When using tools, carry them in a tool belt, or use a hoist or the help of a partner to keep you and the people below safe.
Not all ladders are created equally. Refer to your ladder’s instruction manual and safety precaution stickers to see how high you can safely climb. On most extension ladders, you should not climb past the third rung from the top. With stepladders, do not climb above the second rung from the top.
Following these simple guidelines will reduce the risk of injury when using ladders, which is a smart and safe way to get the job done.