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  • Writer's pictureMichael Stewart

Ladder Safety 101

As a homeowner, some of the projects you tackle require you to use a ladder. While ladders are incredibly common, they are also commonly misused in dangerous ways. Homeowners should treat ladders like other power tools and take safety precautions while completing their projects. The World Health Organization reports more than 164,000 injuries requiring emergency-room treatment and 300 deaths annually in the United States due to ladder accidents. OSHA argues that 100% of those ladder accidents were preventable with training and proper ladder use.

Our professionals at Gutterworks use ladders in their day-to-day work. We know that while ladders are vital for our jobs, we are serious about our responsibility to ensure our own safety as well as the safety of others. To do so, we follow specific safety practices. We’re sharing those practices below to educate homeowners on the proper use of ladders so that they can safely complete their home projects.

1) Always select the right ladder for the job

When it’s evident that you need a ladder to complete a household job, first you must select an appropriate ladder. Ladder choice is one of the most important steps for ensuring your safety as you complete your project.

First, you need to select the correct type of ladder. Two common types of ladders are extension ladders and stepladders. Extension ladders must rest on the wall or edge of a structure, with proper support to hold the ladder upright. These are typical choices for projects requiring you to access taller places. Step ladders are more common for lower heights but are freestanding.

Whichever ladder you select has to be the correct size. If you’re planning on doing some work requiring you to exit the ladder onto another surface (like your roof), a safe ladder option is tall enough that the rails extend at least three feet past the surface. This guideline ensures that you’ll have the rails within reach and a rung close enough to the surface that you’ll be able to step back down easily. A 28’ extension ladder will reach a roof safely for many 2-story homes.

2) Always climb the ladder properly

First, when you’re climbing a ladder, keep your body in the center of the rails. Never face away from the ladder. If your project forces you to do so, you need to use a different type of ladder that allows you to face the ladder at all times when climbing. Maintain both firm grip and three points of contact (2 hands and a foot or 2 feet and a hand all touching the ladder at once) with the ladder when climbing. Ensure that you’re wearing shoes that won’t make your feet slide on the rungs.

Never stand higher than the fourth rung of an extension ladder, and no further than the second step from the top on a stepladder.

3) Always consider your environment

When working with a ladder outside, never place it on uneven ground. Ladders - especially tall ones - can fall over, so avoid that by finding a stable spot to place the base of your ladder. Further, when using an extension ladder, pay attention to where the top of the ladder ends up. Never lean your extension ladder against your gutters. It can contribute to loosening the gutters. It could also damage the paint, leaving the aluminum vulnerable to rust and other damage. Here are some detailed instructions on how to place a ladder safely on a surface.

Aside from considering how to set up your ladder, you must also be aware of other environmental factors. Be sure to avoid using a ladder in inclement weather for many considerations. Windy conditions can cause a ladder to topple, which could lead to injury whether you’re on the ladder or off it. Any precipitation or condensation (fog) could make a ladder slippery. You should make sure your ladder is dry before you use it, and never place a ladder on top of icy ground.

4) Other safety tips

When you work on your home, your safety should be a consistent concern.

  • If you’re feeling unwell, consider postponing any ladder use until you feel better.

  • When you anticipate needing tools at the top of the ladder, carry them on a toolbelt. Toolbelts make it easy to access tools on the go and give you a hands-free climbing experience.

  • When you transport a ladder from one location to another, carry it vertically. When moving the ladder to a nearby location, you should resist the urge to try and move it while you’re standing on it or from the roof.

Ultimately, ladder safety is of the utmost importance. For jobs that require the use of a ladder, evaluate whether you feel that you can complete the job safely or if it’s time to call a professional. Some things are just safer to leave to the experts. Gutterworks is at the ready to take care of your gutter maintenance or replacement needs, and we’re just a phone call away! Call us today at 304-848-9870.


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