Ladder Safety

Some cleaning jobs would be difficult or impossible without using a ladder. However, improper ladder use can be dangerous, even deadly. U.S. government experts say roughly 164,000 people seek emergency medical treatment each year for injuries stemming from improper ladder use. More than 300 people die from ladder-related injuries.

One way to avoid becoming a statistic is to look for ways to avoid using a ladder in the first place. For example, you might wish to clean second-story windows by using an extension pole and garden hose while standing on the ground.

If you must use a ladder, carefully follow the instruction labels found on the side rails of all recent models. Consider the following tips as well.

For all ladders:

• Don’t exceed the weight rating found on the side-rail labeling. Factor in tools and materials as well as your own body weight. Never allow more than one person at a time to use a portable ladder.

• Use a wooden or fiberglass model if you’re working anywhere near electrical power lines, since metal ladders conduct electricity. Don’t allow any ladder to contact live electrical wires.

• Never stand on the top of a ladder or the first two rungs below the top of the ladder. Choose a taller ladder instead.

• The surface under a ladder should be level and firm for proper placement of the feet. Brace wooden boards or sturdy plywood sheets under the feet of the ladder if working over soft or uneven ground. Consider enlisting a helper to stand on the ground and steady the ladder while you work above.

• Keep your body centered between the ladder rails at all times. Move the ladder instead of trying to reach more than an arm’s length beyond either ladder rail.

Step (“A-frame”) ladders:

• Be certain the center braces are fully extended and locked before use.

• Never stand on the bucket shelf, or stand or climb on the back rungs of stepladders.

Extension ladders:

• Verify all locks are fully engaged before climbing on the ladder.

• Never leave a raised ladder unattended, and never drop or throw a ladder.

• Choose models featuring no-slip rubber or vinyl shoes under the two adjustable “feet” of the ladder.

• Make sure both feet are adjusted to rest flat on even ground so that the ladder cannot slide sideways. This is very important when you are working high up.

• When using a ladder to climb onto a roof, extend the ladder to a point three feet above the eves or gutter. This will make it safer to step on and off the ladder.

• The ladder placement angle shouldn’t be too steep or too shallow. For every four feet in height off the ground, move the ladder base at least one foot away from the supporting wall or other structure. For example, in the case of a 24-foot ladder at full extension, the ladder feet should be located about 5 feet from the wall when the top of the ladder is 20 feet above the ground.


U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

© 2006

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