6 Tips for Ladder Safety

August 11, 2016
A woman sorts vegetables in a warehouse.

Ladders are a common part of home repair and maintenance. They enable homeowners to complete tasks that would otherwise be difficult to reach. But as is the case for any tool, it’s important to use ladders safely.

Ladder-related injuries send more than 90,000 people a year to emergency rooms throughout the United States, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report.

Ladders were also involved in 81 percent of all injuries from falls that sent construction workers to emergency rooms, and 20 percent of injuries from falls that U.S. workers sustained on the job over a 10-year period studied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many of these injuries occur because someone did not use the proper-size ladder or used a ladder improperly, says Mark Clement, co-host of the MyFixItUpLife home-improvement radio show.

Here are Clement’s six tips for proper ladder use:

Ladder safety tip #1: Read the safety label

Everything you need to know about proper ladder use is written on the ladder’s safety sticker, but many people are in too much of a rush or are too tired to read it, Clement says. As is the case with any tool in which safety is an important issue, take your time to read the directions. That can prevent an accident.

Ladder safety tip #2: Make sure the ladder is tall enough

The most popular ladder size, 18 feet, may not be tall enough to get you on and off a roof safely, Clement says. It’s barely tall enough to get to the edge of the roof. While you might be able to get off the ladder and onto the roof, getting back onto the ladder from the roof is another story with a ladder that is too short.

To safely return to the ladder from the roof, the ladder needs to extend 3 feet, or three rungs, above the roof to give you something to hold onto when you get back onto the ladder, Clement says. Otherwise, you will need to lie on your belly on the roof and try to hook the ladder with your feet. Most houses require a 24-foot ladder. If you have a two-story house, a 28-foot ladder is the better option.

Ladder safety tip #3: Don’t lean out too far

One of the most common falls from a ladder comes from losing your balance while cleaning out the gutters, Clement says. Eventually you get tired of going down the ladder, moving it 3 feet, and going back up. So, you start to lean over too far and you lose your balance. A good rule of thumb, is to keep your belt buckle between the rungs and never reach out any farther on either side.

Ladder safety tip #4: Use the ladder for its intended use

Don’t use the ladder as a bridge or scaffolding. Don’t use the shelf on the ladder as a step. People are tempted to step on that shelf because they choose a ladder that isn’t long enough, Clement says. They don’t want to get down and get another ladder, they just want to finish the job. That’s when people get hurt, he says.

Ladder safety tip #5: Make sure the ladder is on a firm, level surface

The ladder needs to be level at its base and on a firm surface to prevent it from tipping over while you are climbing on it. Rocky or uneven ground can destabilize a ladder.  If the ladder seems even a little wobbly, it’s best to adjust your location. Sometimes even just a couple of feet will be enough to ensure a safe base.

Ladder safety tip #6: Plan your route before moving the ladder

Most people store their ladder in the garage or the shed. Before you move it from storage to your work area, plan your route to make sure you don’t bump into any wires, cars or other objects, Clement says. Carry it horizontally and make sure the gate is open if you are moving it from the back yard to front yard.

Knowing proper ladder safety is key to protecting yourself against unforeseen accidents. Make sure your home and property have adequate protection by getting the right homeowners insurance policy. Learn more about Nationwide’s homeowners and renters insurance policies today.

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