Ladders and home improvement projects always seem to go hand in hand. After all, the nature of most home improvement project involves accessing parts of the house you normally wouldn’t be able to reach. Keeping that in mind, what better way to gain access to those hard-to-reach areas than with a ladder? However, it’s worth noting that there are about more than 500,000 reported cases of ladder-related injuries each year in the U.S., many of which are a result of failure to abide by proper safety practices.
While ladders may seem simple to operate, any work requiring a ladder needs to be undertaken with the utmost caution.
Leading Causes of Ladder-Related Incidents
1. Ladder Placed on Uneven Ground
The base of the ladder should always be on stable, level ground when in use. You can increase the grip of the ladder by installing non-slip rubber feet if the ladder will be used on a smooth ground. You can also choose a ladder with non-slip rungs.
2. Missing a Step
When you’re inspecting your roof or gutters in Syracuse, NY, a literal misstep can prove to be fatal, especially if you’re coming down from the higher rungs of the ladder. In any case, missing a step on the ladder can be avoided by making sure there are no missing steps in the first place.
The primary function of ladders is to allow you to reach spaces that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. However, one of the leading causes of ladder-related accidents is when you overreach. It’s safer to go back down and re-adjust your ladder than to try to lean farther than the side rails. Sure, it’s more work, but ultimately, that extra safety measure step might very well be the one that saves you from a bad accident.
The Importance of Ladders
Ladders are, without a doubt, an important home improvement tool. Whether you need a ladder to make sure your seamless gutters in Manlius, NY, are in peak condition or to replace that flickering light bulb in your linen room, ladders play an essential role in keeping your home in tiptop shape. However, as much as ladders are crucial in performing a wide variety of home maintenance tasks, it should be noted that it’s still better (and much safer) to stay off ladders unless absolutely necessary.
This isn’t to say that you should avoid using ladders at all costs. But when you do, safety should be your primary concern. Below are some basic ladder safety tips that you should keep in mind whenever you use a ladder.
Ladder Safety 101
There is a wide range of ladder materials you can choose from. Each material has its own advantages. Ladders made of fiberglass are ideal for projects that involve going near power lines or anything with electrical wiring. Most homeowners don’t need a fiberglass ladder, since any electrical work is best left to professionals.
For tasks such as inspecting your gutter guards in Fayetteville, NY, you’d be better off using a steel ladder. Steel ladders aren’t corrosion-resistant, but they can withstand heavy loads.
Like steel, aluminum ladders are conductors of heat and electricity. The difference between the two materials is that aluminum ladders are moisture and corrosion-resistant but cannot support heavy loads. You can also use a wooden ladder. However, wooden ladders generally aren’t recommended for commercial, industrial or any heavy-duty application since they are prone to deterioration and can vary in terms of durability.
Climbing a ladder is an activity that requires wearing proper attire for safety purposes. When using a ladder, wear clothes that fit properly. Loose or torn clothing could get caught in something, resulting in an accident. As for footwear, pick shoes that cover your entire feet, with a non-slip tread. Work boots or even athletic rubber shoes are the ideal footwear when climbing a ladder. Wearing gloves isn’t necessary since they could slip off your hands and prevent you from getting tactile feedback about the rungs you’ll be gripping.
A Crash Course on Proper Ladder Usage
Keep these things in mind any time you need to use the ladder.
- Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, only one person should be on the ladder. Your companion can stay near the base should you need help, but at no point during the ladder usage should two people climb at the same time.
- Always establish three points of contact with the ladder. You can do this by either keeping two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand on the ladder.
- Never go beyond the third-highest rung.
- Do not attempt to bring tools with you as you climb up the ladder. Use a tool belt instead.
- Your extension ladder should extend at least three feet above the roof or area that you’re trying to reach.
- Make sure that you have set up your ladder properly. In the case of extension ladders, make sure that all rung locks are secured. For stepladders, always extend the rail spreaders fully.
- Be mindful of the load capacity of the ladder you’re using.
Do Some Groundwork
Before you climb a ladder, make sure that the ground at the ladder’s base is level. If you’re working on an unpaved surface, you can even out the ground by digging out the dirt and setting the ladder on a plank. The ladder should be firmly planted—it shouldn’t wiggle, shake or budge.
Remember the 4-to-1 Rule
When using a ladder, always apply the 4-to-1 rule, which dictates that for every four feet that you have to scale vertically, you should move the base of the ladder one foot away from the wall. You may use the distance of the rungs, which are usually about one foot apart, for reference. This ratio is applied to ensure proper ladder angle and safety.
As with materials, the type of ladder that you should use has to be appropriate for the type of task you’ll be taking on. In any case, commonly used types such as stepladders are for indoor use, while extension and multipurpose ladders are more suitable for outdoor work. On the other hand, platform ladders come in handy when there are no available walls to lean or rest the ladder on. Platform ladders are standalone units and can be propped up on their own.
Consider the Weather
It’s not advisable to use ladders if it’s raining or if there’s a storm brewing. Don’t go out and use a ladder in inclement weather. This applies even when you’re indoors, as the lightning and thunder might startle you and cause you to lose your balance or footing.