One step at a time


Basic ladder safety prevents serious injury

While springtime offers many options and ideas for weekend activities, for many of us it also means allocating some time to spring-cleaning.

We spend a perfectly good weekend cleaning our house, wall-to-wall and top-to-bottom. We gather supplies: cleaners, rags, sponges, paper towels, mops, brooms and a ladder or two. You probably frequently use most of these supplies except for the ladders. Ladders come in all shapes and sizes. Although they are very useful tools, they can also be very dangerous if used improperly!

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), more than 500,000 people per year are treated for ladder-related injuries in the U.S. Improper ladder usage is a persistent hazard in both the workplace and at home. Major causes for ladder falls include:

//// Incorrect extension ladder setup angle

The ladder can slide out from under you if the angle is set too low or it can tilt backwards due to an unbalanced center of gravity if the angle is set too high.

//// Inappropriate ladder

Ladders may be too small, too large, not strong enough or the wrong type (step, platform, extension, etc.) for its purpose.

//// Broken ladder

All ladders should be inspected before use and should not be used if broken or missing parts.

//// Improper ladder usage

Overreaching, carrying too many objects, using too much force and skipping steps should always be avoided.
How can you prevent ladder-related falls and injuries? Use the right tool in the right way for the job. NIOSH has a mobile Ladder Safety app that can help you choose the right ladder for the job and help you use it correctly. If you do not have the right ladder, see if you can borrow one from a friend, family member or neighbor. You can also check with your local home improvement center to see if they have ladders in their equipment rental department.

Spring cleaning may not be the most fun way to spend a weekend, but accomplished safely, one step at a time, it will be better than spending several hours in an emergency room.

The following tips will help you stay safe when using ladders at home or on the job.

//// Selecting the Right Ladder

Choose a ladder with non-conductive side rails if working on or near energized electrical equipment.
Consider the task demands and load capacity.
Inspect the ladder prior to use to ensure it is clean and free from defects or damage.

//// Climbing a Ladder

Face the ladder as you ascend or descend.
Maintain 3 points of contact at all times (2 hands/1 foot or 1 hand/2 feet).
Do not carry objects or loads that could cause you to lose your balance.

//// Using a Stepladder

Use the ladder fully opened, with the spreading device locked open.
Do not tilt or prop the ladder.
Use the ladder on a stable and level surface.

//// Using an Extension Ladder

Use on a stable, level, non-slippery surface.
Angle the ladder such that the base is placed at a distance from the wall that is 1/4 the ladder’s working length.
Extend ladder side rails at least 3 feet above the landing surface.