This everyday tool is a homeowner essential, but it is also one of the most dangerous tools when not used with the right safety measures.
While you might not even attempt to use a power tool without some prior education, many people will climb up on a ladder without thinking twice. Before you decide to do any high-level home improvement projects on a ladder, there are some safety concerns and tips you should keep in mind.
Falls, in general, are the most common causes of accidental injury and death. Add a few or several feet to the fall when on a ladder, and it becomes even more dangerous. According to statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control, 43% of all fall fatalities reported were ladder-related. It is estimated that 150,000 Americans end up in the emergency room each year from a ladder injury, a number you do not want to be included in. Following basic ladder safety can help you prevent falls and injury when doing your next home project.
Before you worry about climbing a ladder, you should first make sure it is in good condition. It won’t matter how careful you are if your ladder is subpar. Check to make sure all hardware is tight and in place; no loose screws or braces. Give the ladder a shake – does it wobble or sway? The ladder should be solid and show no signs of worn rungs or other elements.
The Right Ladder
Some of the worst falls come from ladders too small for the job. The ladder must be rated for the load; make sure to check the weight limit and factor in the user’s weight and the supplies. It also needs to be tall enough for the job. You should never need to use the top rung or step to reach your project. You will not have sufficient points of contact, leading to a higher risk of falling.
Setting Up Your Ladder
It is not just your ladder that needs to be safe; you need a safe place for it to be anchored. You want a solid, level surface so the ladder does not rock or lean, with all legs firmly on the ground. Make sure the surface is non-slip and is not wet or slippery. All brackets should be locked into place to keep the ladder extended. Make sure to never set up a ladder in front of a door that opens in that direction without locking or blocking the door first.
Wear Appropriate Apparel
You don’t need to worry about fashion when doing home projects, but your apparel should be safety-appropriate. Do not wear clothing that has strings or loose articles that can get caught on the ladder when climbing. Also, wear slip-resistant footwear like tennis shoes or work boots and make sure soles are dry before climbing.
Three-Points of Contact
One of the most important rules of ladder safety is ensuring three-points of contact all the time. This means three limbs should be firmly on the ladder: two hands, one foot or two feet and one hand. You should not be carrying anything in one hand while climbing, as this will negate the three points of contact rule. Use a tool belt for small objects and have someone hand you larger items.
When climbing your ladder, you should center your torso between the ladder rails and slowly ascend and descend, carefully making each step. This is the position you want to be in all the time; you should position your ladder so you can reach your project while your torso is still in the center of the rails. You should not need to lean away from the ladder or reach too high – this is how many ladders falls occur.
Outdoor Ladder Precautions
When you are using a ladder outside, you have other elements to consider. Wind and precipitation are weather elements that should be avoided when using a ladder. Other outdoor ladder safety concerns include:
- Ground firmness: make sure your ladder will not sink in soft turf
- Pets: big dogs and other large pets should be restrained away from the ladder
- Kids: make sure kids are not playing near your work area
Have a Partner
It is always best to have someone with you when using a ladder. They can hand you tools or items you need so you can keep three points of contact. They can also hold the ladder to ensure it is stable. However, two people should never be on a standard ladder at the same time.
Hire a Professional for High Painting Projects
Climbing a ladder is risky enough without trying to complete a painting project. Leave those high painting projects to the professionals. Our experienced team at The Painting Company can beautifully complete all your painting projects and keep you your feet safely on the ground.