Whether you’re hanging holiday lights, inspecting the roof after a windstorm, or cleaning the gutters, many home maintenance tasks involve using a ladder. Falls off ladders are one of the top five accidents people experience when doing chores around the house. The good news is the most common types of ladder falls are preventable. Here are some tips for using a ladder safely when maintaining your home this winter.
Select the Right Ladder
Select the right ladder for the home maintenance task you will be doing. If you have a two-storey house, choosing a stepladder to reach the roofline to hang lights is going to be too short. A 24 to 28-foot extension ladder will allow you to safely reach the gutters and the roof.
A stepladder can be used to clean windows, wash siding, make repairs to the home’s exterior, and clean the gutters of a one-storey home.
A straight ladder, one that is designed to lean against an exterior wall, is also ideal for the home maintenance tasks required for a one-story house.
Regardless of the type of ladder – step, straight, or extension – if you have to reach above or lean to the side to complete a maintenance task, the ladder is too short.
Inspect it First
Before using your ladder, inspect it first, particularly if it hasn’t been used in a while. Ensure all parts are in working order. An extension ladder or step ladder should open easily and lock in place.
Never use a wood ladder that has warped sides or rungs. Make sure metal ladders don’t have rusted or loose hardware.
It should not be broken, worn, or have missing parts.
Set the feet of the ladder on firm and even ground. This applies to whatever type of ladder you will be using.
The ground should be relatively dry; never place a ladder on a slippery surface.
Use the Ladder Correctly
When using a stepladder, make sure it is fully opened and locked in place before climbing it. Never lean an unopened ladder against a wall like an extension ladder or a straight ladder – the feet aren’t designed to fully support a person’s weight if the step ladder hasn’t been opened properly.
An extension ladder or straight ladder should be positioned the proper distance from the wall. If it is too close or too far away, the ladder will not give you the right support you need while you are working on it. Divide the height of the ladder by four – that is the number of feet it should be away from the house. The formula is based on for every four feet of height, the base of the ladder is moved away from the wall by one foot.
Use the Ladder Safely
When standing or climbing a ladder, use the 3 points of contact rule – either one hand/two feet or two hands/one foot on the ladder at all times.
It is advisable to never go beyond the top two rungs of a step, extension, or straight ladder.
Wear non-skid shoes or boots.
Use a utility belt to prevent reaching for tools or having to make extra trips up and down the ladder.
Avoid overreaching – move the ladder instead.
When repositioning an extension ladder, look where it’s going; avoid getting tangled in power lines or denting the gutters by accident.