Whether you’ll be washing the siding, cleaning out the gutters, or inspecting the roof as part of your home maintenance routine this spring, you’ll need to use a ladder. Falls from ladders are preventable. If you haven’t used a ladder in a while to complete chores around the house, use this brief ladder safety refresher guide to help you prepare for spring cleaning.
Select the right ladder for the task at hand.
The three types of ladders that homeowners use most often are a stepladder, a straight ladder, and an extension ladder. For example, a standard two storey house is 6 metres (20 feet); a person can comfortably reach 1.2 (4 feet) above their head – for the ladder to reach gutters on a second-floor roofline, you would need a 24-foot ladder.
Before buying a new ladder, know the following:
- If it will be the right height for the task it’s being used for
- Its maximum weight capacity – in addition to a person’s weight also include anything that will be on the ladder at the same time such as building materials, cleaning supplies, tools, and equipment
- The material it’s made of – fiberglass and metal won’t warp like wood does
- What features would be most useful – some common features are non-slip treads, handrails, rubber feet, and a standoff
Ensure the ladder is in good condition.
Before cleaning the gutters or performing some other home maintenance task, check to see if the ladder is in good condition. You should be able to extend an extension ladder or open a stepladder easily.
All hardware should be in good working order. Pay special attention to lock mechanisms. Also look for any dents, rust spots, or other types of damage that could affect the ladder’s stability. Do not use a ladder that is worn or has missing parts.
Set up the ladder on a flat surface.
Set the ladder up on a flat surface. The ground should be relatively even, stable, and capable of safely supporting the ladder with a person on it. When a surface is soft or has the potential of shifting use a stabilizing device like a standoff, leg levelers, or a loader lockdown.
Position the ladder correctly.
Before climbing a stepladder, open the spreader and shelf until the braces lock into place. Position the step ladder so that it faces the work being done.
When using an extension ladder or straight ladder, it should be positioned the prescribed distance from the wall – if the ladder is too close or too far away it will not give you the proper support you need to safely work from it. Use the following formula to know how far away the ladder should be: divide the height of the ladder (number of feet) by four and then place the ladder that distance away from the house.
Identify potential hazards.
When setting up a ladder or moving it from one place to another, be aware of the surrounding area, both above and around the space you will be working. Avoid making contact with power lines or other electrical sources. Areas where you will be walking and moving around should be tidy and free of clutter and obstacles.
When a ladder needs to be set up in a driveway, make a sign or have a helper on hand that can stop people from getting too close. Especially if there are pets and/or children, let the household know when you’ll be working on a ladder in the yard.
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 step ladder against a wall like – it’s not designed to safely support a person if all four feet are not on the ground.
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 proper 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.
Climb the ladder safely.
Always use the 3 points of contact rule – one hand/two feet or two hands/one foot in contact with the adder at all times.
Wear closed-toe work boots or non-slip soled shoes.
Never stand on the top rung of a stepladder.
Use a tool belt to limit the number of items you have to carry in your hands when using the ladder.