Don’t Skip a Rung in Ladder Safety
Article Provided by AmTrust Financial Services, a Pearl carrier partner
If you’re like many other homeowners, you probably have a DIY project in some stage of construction in your backyard, basement, or even attic. Or perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who can say they’ve completed their project! According to Porch, 3 out of 4 homeowners have completed a major project since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A ladder is one of the most common tools used in any construction project. It’s deceptively easy to use and most people don’t think twice before climbing the rungs to paint, wash, trim, sand, or change a simple lightbulb. However, according to the National Safety Council, falls are one of the top three leading causes of preventable, injury-related death. With so many other hazards in the world today, taking safety seriously at home seems like a no-brainer.
Before you climb a ladder, there are a number of safety concerns to consider. Here’s five easy tips to review before you take your first step.
A ladder is a ladder, right? Wrong. According to the American Ladder Institute, there are at least ten different ladders designed for a variety of jobs. Ladders can also be made of different materials from wood to fiberglass to aluminum.
You may not have the budget to purchase ten different ladders, but you can review your selection and choose the best ladder for the task. Even better, ask your neighbor or post in your neighborhood chat group for the specific ladder you need. Using a ladder for a purpose it has not been designed for is a common cause of falls. Also resist the urge to use or build a makeshift ladder, such as a chair, desk, barrel, or box. It’s definitely a safety hazard to avoid.
Inspect Like Sherlock
Ladders see a lot of general wear and tear. They are often exposed to the elements, bumped around, and may not always be in the best condition. Before using any ladder, you should inspect it and look for the following faults:
- Loose, cracked, dented, or missing rungs, side rails, cleats, or bracing
- Loose nails, bolts, or screws
- Corrosion of metal or wooden parts, or missing or damaged foot pads
Aluminum ladders are electrically conductive, so use wooden or fiberglass ladders for electrical work, or for outdoor work done in proximity to overhead wires.
Set in Concrete (not literally)
Once a ladder has passed the inspection test, correct placement is very important. A general rule of thumb is to place ladder feet 1/4 of the ladder’s working length away from the base of the structure where work is being completed. For example, if the ladder measures 8 feet between its base and its support point at the top of a wall, there should be 2 feet between the base of the ladder and the foot of the wall. These additional tips will help ensure the safe use of ladders on all your DIY projects.
- Clear the area around the base and top of the ladder of debris, tools, and other objects
- Place the feet of all ladders on a firm, level footing
- Fully extend and lock all stretchers
- Have someone hold the ladder, if possible
- Check for overhead electrical wires and other obstructions
- Set up suitable barricades before using a ladder in high-traffic areas
- Shut and lock doors before using a ladder in a doorway
Setting up ladders required for more complicated jobs or higher altitudes is especially risky. Secure the bottom of extension ladders to prevent slipping and ensure the locks are fully engaged.
You should never set a ladder up on a box, barrel, cart, table, scaffold, ice, or any other unstable or slippery surface.
Climb Like a Pro (not a two-year-old)
Climbing a ladder may seem like a straight-forward proposition; however, social media is full of images to the contrary. Remember, you should climb up or down a ladder slowly and deliberately. Here are simple tips to follow to climb with greater comfort and security.
- Face the ladder when going up or down and when working from it
- Grasp the rungs of the ladder, not the side rails (the rungs are easier to hold onto in case your foot slips)
- Wear protective footwear with slip-resistant soles and heels
- Be sure footwear and ladder rungs are clear of mud or other slippery substances
- Keep the center of your body within the side rails
- Maintain three-point contact by keeping two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, on the ladder at all times
- Do not carry objects in your hands while on a ladder (either hoist materials or attach tools to a belt instead)
Ladders may be stationary objects (or at least they should be), but it still takes some common sense to stay on them. Short-cuts are really just safety hazards in disguise. Follow these rules to avoid a fall or injury.
- Do not work from the top three rungs of an extension ladder or the top two rungs of a step ladder
- Don’t straddle the space between a ladder and another object
- Don’t overreach from a ladder (step down and move the ladder)
- Never move or shift a ladder while in use
With these simple tips you can complete your DIY projects with less risk of injury and enjoy your new addition, playhouse, or home office for many years to come.
This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice.
Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represent or warrant that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors.
AmTrust maintains this risk management article as a service for its customers. These files are provided in the spirit of professionals sharing their work with each other. They are intended to give you a place to start when finding information about a particular safety question. They are not intended to provide authoritative answers to safety and health questions. The recommendations in these articles may differ from state and local practices. Before using the information here, the accuracy and appropriateness of the information to your specific situation should be verified by a person qualified to assess all factors involved.