Ladder Safety Tips
Ladders are tools, just like any other item you use for home construction and maintenance. Many of the basic ladder safety tips that apply to other tools, such as saws, power drills, sanders, etc., also apply to the safe use of a ladder. At James Russell Roofing if you are trying to do a project yourself, we want to see you use good safety and finish the project in one piece.
Tips for Ladder Usage
To ensure you are using a ladder safely, follow these tips:
- If you feel tired or dizzy, or are prone to losing your balance, stay off the ladder altogether. Having a dizzy spell while on a ladder can lead to an accident.
- Don’t ever use ladders in windy situations or in thunderstorms.
- When you are using a ladder, be sure to wear clean, slip-resistant shoes. Shoes that have leather soles, even sneakers, are not appropriate for climbing ladders because they have a tendency to slip.
- Always inspect a ladder before using it to make sure it is in good condition. It shouldn’t have any loose or missing parts and should never feel rickety.
- You should always pick the right ladder for the job. Make sure the duty rating of the ladder is greater than your weight plus the weight of any tools, supplies or other objects that will be carried on the ladder. The ladder should also be of a sufficient height that you never have to advance all the way to the top step.
- Ladders must be set up on firm, level ground, and it’s important to ensure there is nothing that could cause the legs to slip while you’re using the ladder.
- Never have more than one person at a time use a ladder, unless it is specifically designed to hold more than one person.
- Never place ladders in front of closed doors that can open. Those on the other side of the door won’t know not to swing the door open. The door needs to be opened, locked or clearly marked.
- Always read any safety information that comes with a ladder.
The Three Points of Contact Climb
In order to practice ladder safety tips, it is recommended to use the three points of contact climb. Most falls from ladders occur as a result of haste, sudden movement, lack of attention, poor condition of the ladders, the climber’s physical condition and the climber’s footwear. This simple checklist can reduce your chances of falling by:
- Wearing proper footwear.
- Cleaning the soles of your shoes for better traction.
- Using towlines or a tool belt to keep your hands free while climbing.
- Avoiding sudden movements.
- Keeping the center of your belt buckle in between the side rails of the ladder when climbing and working. Never overreach or lean while working to avoid tipping the ladder.
Three points of contact will help minimize the chances of slipping and falling. This means that at all times throughout the ascent, descent and time spent on the ladder, you face the ladder and have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in contact with the ladder. That way, you always have a steady grip on the ladder. Be sure that your hands aren’t carrying items — that doesn’t count as a point of contact, and the chances of falling are increased.
The idea of climbing a ladder can be scary for some people. Many homeowners opt out of it altogether in order to leave things like gutter cleaning and holiday decorating to the pros. But if you’re into DIY projects or you need to climb up to change a lightbulb or something simple, make sure you use these ladder safety tips to ensure your safety.
Choosing the Right Ladder
Different projects require different types of ladders. Think about what you need to do in order to choose the right size and style of ladder, and make sure you follow the directions on the ladder before you start to climb. Consider these questions:
- How high do you have to reach?
- How much weight does the ladder have to hold?
- Is it an indoor or outdoor job?
Placing the Ladder
Once you’ve chosen a ladder, always place it on a firm, solid surface to avoid slips and follow these guidelines:
- If you have to put it on a soft surface, put a wooden board under the feet of the ladder.
- Never lean a straight ladder against a window or unstable surface.
- Be sure to place a straight ladder 1 foot away from the surface it is resting against for every 4 feet of the ladder’s height.
- Open step ladders completely before you climb on them.
- Make sure straight ladders are securely fastened to an upper support.
- Never stack your ladder on top of another object for extra height.
Take Careful Climbs
Even if you use ladders often, never get sloppy about climbing. Make sure you are mindful of what you are doing every time you step onto a ladder.
Consider the Conditions
Weather is always a factor when using ladders outside. Even if the weather seems calm when you first go up, be mindful of how it is changing during your project. Don’t use extension ladders when it’s windy or rainy. If bad weather hits, carefully climb down immediately. And clean your ladder every time to make sure it doesn’t get dirt built up on it, which can become slippery later.
According to Injury Facts 2016, nearly 20,000 people were injured and 133 died due to falls from a ladder or scaffolding at work. Workers in the construction industry are most at risk. Of all occupational injuries, falls are the No. 2 leading cause of death next to highway crashes. Fatal falls to a lower level usually involve injuries to the head or multiple body parts.
To bring greater attention to this problem, the National Safety Council supports the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in its Fall Safety Stand-Down. For more information on ladder safety at work, visit OSHA’s website.