6 Safety Tips to Know When Using a Ladder
Whether you use it at home or work, ladders carry a risk of injury when safety precautions are not taken. According to ABC News, the rate of ladder-related injuries in the United States increased by 50 percent from 1990 to 2005. To protect yourself from injury, follow these six safety tips when using a ladder.
1- Three Points of Contact When Climbing
Maintain three points of contact — both your hands and one foot — at all times when climbing a ladder. Some people have a tendency to climb ladders using just one foot and one hand. It only takes a minor slip, however, to send the individual plummeting to the ground below. By maintaining three points of contact, you’ll have a stronger hold on the ladder, thereby lowering the risk of accidental injury.
2- Choose a Stable Surface
Ladders should only be used on a stable, even surface. If the ground or floor is sloped, the bottom of the ladder will only make partial contact. As you climb it, you may discover that it wobbles. This indicates the ladder isn’t secure, and something as simple as leaning towards the wrong direction may cause it to fall. To prevent this from happening, place your ladder on a flat surface.
3- Follow the Ladder’s Weight Capacity
All ladders have a maximum weight that they can safely support. Before climbing a ladder, check its weight capacity to ensure that you don’t exceed it. Keep in mind that any tools you carry when climbing a ladder adds to its total weight. If the weight of your body and tools exceeds its capacity, it may buckle and collapse.
4- Inspect for Damage
Ladders are relatively simple, but their components can still degrade or fail over time. So, inspect your ladder for damage on a regular basis. If the traction pads on the steps are worn, for example, you may slip and fall when climbing it. Rust is another safety hazard to look for when inspecting your ladder. When ignored, rust can eat through a ladder, preventing it from supporting the weight for which it’s rated. If you discover that your ladder is damaged, either repair or replace it.
5- Beware of Electrical Hazards
Always check for electrical hazards before climbing a ladder. A typical power line carries 200,000 to 765,000 volts of electricity, which is more than enough to electrocute someone. When a power line is present, move your ladder to a different area and turn off power if possible. Using a wood or fiberglass ladder is also recommended when working around electrical hazards. Unlike aluminum and steel, wood and fiberglass ladders don’t conduct electricity.
6- Store It
Finally, don’t leave your ladder resting against the side of a wall. Although this sounds harmless, there have been numerous cases of ladders falling and causing injury. CNN cites one story of a father who discovered his daughter playing with a ladder in their living room. The ladder fell, ultimately hitting the girl’s foot and causing it to bruise. It’s not just children who are susceptible to falling ladders; anyone, regardless of age, can sustain injury from a 50- or 100-pound ladder.
A ladder is versatile tool that allows you to reach elevated areas that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. From cleaning gutters and painting crown molding to installing a ceiling fan and washing the top of a large truck, you can use them for a variety of purposes. To lower your risk of injury, however, refer to the six ladder safety tips listed here.