As Spring quickly approaches, many of us will start making our lists of do-it-yourself household projects. Some of our upcoming projects will no doubt involve using a ladder, and usually when there is a ladder involved, some tools are also involved. Painting, replacing shutters, cleaning gutters, spring cleaning, and putting in ceiling fans or new lights may all require a ladder, ranging from a simple step-ladder up to a heavy duty, several story, extension ladder. All of these ladders can be dangerous if not used properly.
According to a study published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 97% of ladder-related injuries treated in an emergency room occur at home, so to help keep you safe while using a ladder at home, here are some safety tips:
- Before using any ladder, make sure to examine it carefully for any cracks or damage that may be a potential hazard. Also consider the total weight capacity, which for most household ladders is between 200 and 250 lbs.
- Make sure the ladder is dry and doesn’t have any substance on it that could cause you to slip, like grease or mud. Check both the treads and any handrails, as well as the part of the ladder that rests on the ground or floor. .
- Use the 1 to 4 ratio for ladders that lean against something for support. For example, set the feet (bottom) of an 8-foot ladder 2 feet away from the wall it will lean against.
- Make sure the feet of the ladder are level and balanced.
- Check that the top of any extension ladder is set against a solid, firm surface and not near any windows or resting on a gutter..
- Never stand on the very top step of an A-frame ladder, or on any of the top 3 rungs of an extension ladder.
- While on the ladder, keep 3 points of contact on it at all times; for example, both hands and one foot, or both feet and one hand.
- Don’t carry anything up a ladder with you, including tools or materials. Use a helper to pass items to you once you’re set. Also, consider wearing a tool belt to keep necessary tools within reach.
- While on the ladder, keep where your belt buckle would be in between the sides of the ladder. Don’t attempt to reach out to your side further than that, as the shift in your weight can cause a fall.
- Always go up and down ladders facing towards the ladder.
- When working with electricity, use wood or fiberglass ladders instead of metal. Don’t use metal or electric tools around any wires.
- Never leave ladders unattended when children are around. Kids love ladders.
Although ladders are an essential tool for many household chores and projects, they also play a part in over 2 million injuries a year in the U.S. that are serious enough to result in a visit to the emergency room. By taking precautionary measures before you use any ladder, and following these tips while you are using the ladder, you will greatly reduce your chances of injury.
About the Author: Trent Kerns is a Chesterfield accident attorney. For over 25 years he has worked to protect the rights of Virginia residents injured in car accidents and other difficult liability cases including premises liability.