The extension ladder is perhaps the most daunting tool to face most DIYer or workman. Not only can they be intimidating to use, statistics bare witness to the fact that leaning ladders – like extensions – are also the most dangerous type of ladder to use.
Every year hundreds are injured and several people killed by using a leaning or extendible ladder. But I'm not trying to deter you from using this useful piece of equipment because despite the dangers, an extendible or extension ladder is perhaps is the most useful and practical tool there is for working at height.
The danger lies in their improper use and inadequate risk assessment when they are used. The inherent danger in using this type of equipment is that they have to be leaned against the wall. And it is vital that the correct procedures are used if an extendible, extension or other leaning ladders is to be used.
Firstly, it should be inspected for any damage. Bent or damaged stiles (the sides) or rungs should instantly right the ladder off as unusable. Not only should you not use it but it must be either reported as damaged or noticed with a sign.
It should also be clean and not greasy. Slopped oil and grease could cause a slip which, if at height, could be fatal. Decent boots should also be worn, with a good thick sole and tread.
The ladder should be leaned at 75 degrees, too steep an angle and it could topple, too shallow and it could slip, both could result in serious injury.
Both feet of the ladder should be placed firmly on the ground, which should be level, dry and clean. If it is an extendible ladder the fastenings should be secure when it is extended.
Never work at height alone. Ensure there is somebody on hand to assist in case of an accident. If possible get them to foot the ladder, not only will it add stability, an extra pair of eyes can help spot problems but remember there is somebody below – Always secure tools and make sure those below are wearing a hard hat.
Never climb with tools in your hand, rope them up with necessary or wear a belt. When climbing keep three points of contact to the ladder at all times.
Do not over reach or make sure there are at least three rungs above your feet which should both be on the same rung.
If in doubt of the quality of your ladder it is probably time to think about shopping to buy ladders.