Ladders make it easy for anyone to reach high places. Whether it is a straight/extension ladder or a stepladder, a ladder serves as a means to vertically extend your body. When working with ladders, ladder safety must always be your number one concern.
Here are some tips in using ladders safely:
1. Use the correct ladder for the job. The three basic types of ladders are:
- Household – considered lightweight with a load capacity of less than 200lbs. It is used mainly for simple tasks around the house like reaching a shelf or changing a light bulb in the attic.
- Commercial – for general use with a load capacity of less than 225 lbs. It is well suited for use of painters and handymen who carry light tools.
- Industrial – heavy duty ladders for industrial purposes, with a load capacity of more than 250 lbs. It is often used on a daily basis by contractors, maintenance and emergency personnel.
The three basic materials used for ladders are wood, aluminum and fiberglass.
- Wood – heavier and may rot when left wet; should be free from cracks and splits; high maintenance required
- Aluminum – lightweight, durable and doesn’t rust, little to no maintenance required; it should have no sharp edges; when using near energized electricity, extra care must be taken since aluminum conducts electricity
- Fiberglass – non-conductive and lightweight; does not rust/corrode; most expensive of the three types
2. Before using a ladder, inspect it well for any breaks, cracks, loose hinges, screws or faulty locking mechanisms. Check for any slippery substance like oil, grease, and wet paint. When using a boat ladder, it must be oil/grease free, as you can easily slip when your feet are wet. For telescopic ladders, check the rope or lanyard for signs of wear and tear.
3. Place the ladder on a flat, stable, non-slippery surface; never on top of another object. It should not wobble. For ladders with locking mechanisms, make sure the locks are secure. For a straight ladder, always lean it against the wall or any even surface. Do not lean it against an unguarded or unlocked door or in an area where a lot of people tend to pass. When using a ladder outdoors, make sure it is not raining and that there are no strong winds.
4. When you climb the ladder, you should always feel balanced and in control. Hold on to the sides with both hands and place your feet firmly on each step. Face the ladder when going up or coming down. Don’t rush.
5. When carrying small tools, place them in your tool belt or back pocket. If you need to carry other items up the ladder, climb the ladder first and have someone on the ground to pass the items to you.
6. For a straight or extension ladder, never climb beyond the third step. For step ladders, do not go beyond the second to the last step. And never lean back. This is almost always a recipe for disaster.
7. Do not keep the ladders unattended. Children have a knack of incorporating ladders into their games.
8. When you are done using the ladder, carefully close or retract the ladder by keeping your hands away from the hinges or pinch points. If possible, store the ladder in a locked, covered area away from the elements, children, and burglars as well.
There is no reason not to be safe on a ladder. Whatever type of ladder you use and for whatever purpose, follow the tips above and remember: Safety First.