Let’s Talk About Ladders and Ladder Safety

One of the top five injuries people experience doing home maintenance chores is falling off a ladder. Cleaning the gutters this fall shouldn’t be dangerous. Before starting any chore that involves a ladder, know what kind you need and how to use it safely.

Ladder Basics

The three types of ladders applicable to residential use are the step ladder, the straight ladder and the extension ladder. Before purchasing, know its main purpose; check its maximum weight capacity; and identify what kind of surface the ladder will be mostly standing on. This will give you a better idea of any special features you might need, such as a flared base for additional stability or ladder foot grips. Select metal over wood – wood ladders are prone to warping, making them unstable.

Right Ladder for the Job

A step ladder has two sides and looks like an “A” when opened and in use. Most gutter systems on one storey houses can be accessed by a step ladder.

A straight ladder is one piece and designed to lean against a building, tree, shed, etc. They are available in a number of heights. Maximum reach of straight ladders generally do not exceed a standard one-storey home.

Like a straight ladder, an extension ladder is non-self supporting. It typically has two or more sections. Use an extension ladder for homes that are two or more storeys.

Gutters and Ladders

When cleaning the gutters, it’s advisable to use a ladder standoff to protect them from damage. It attaches to a straight or extension ladder and acts as a stabilizer. Because the arms of the ladder standoff lean against a wall or the roof, the ladder does not come into direct contact with the gutters.

Ladder Safety Tips

Most home-related accidents are preventable. Knowing how to use a ladder safely helps minimize the chance of falling and doing serious harm to yourself.

  • Before using the ladder, ensure it is in working order – no missing parts, no loose rungs, no worn grips, etc.
  • Make sure the ladder is placed on firm ground and it is level.
  • The distance between the base of the ladder (leaning, extension) and the house should never exceed one-fourth the height of the ladder. For example, if the ladder is 20 feet, it should be no further than five feet away from the foundation.
  • Do not stand on the top three rungs (leaning ladder) or the top two steps (stepladder).
  • Your body should stay between the lines – don’t overreach.
  • When repositioning an extension ladder, look where it’s going – don’t end up tangled in power lines.