Although no actual statistics are available, accidents involving ladders rate high. A good ladder is one of the most useful accessories for the handyman, but it must be used properly. Safety is important whether you are a housewife using a small step ladder in the kitchen or you are a home handyman using a 30′ extension ladder outside the house to paint the trim.
Whether using a ladder indoors or outdoors, you can avoid accidents by observing a few simple rules.
1. While aluminum or magnesium ladders are easier to handle than wood ones, remember that metal is a conductor of electricity. It is important to keep a metal ladder from coming into contact with electric power lines.
2. Don’t paint the ladder; the color will keep you from noticing such defects as cracks or splits.
3. The safest angle for a ladder is to place the feet of the ladder about a quarter of its length away from the wall. For example, a 15- foot ladder should be set away (on its feet) about 4 feet from the wall.
4. Make certain that the ladder is on firm ground and won’t slip. If you use a metal ladder and rest it on concrete walk or driveway, use rubber-bottom safety feet with the ladder. If you use a wood ladder, it should have rubber “feet” permanently attached to the bottom of it.
5. Make sure that the top of the ladder, against the wall, is also braced properly and not on a surface where it will slide. Don’t put the top of a ladder so that it rests against a screen or window pane.
6. A ladder on a roof must be thoroughly secured, and for this purpose you can obtain roof hooks to attach to the ladder at any hardware store.
7. Don’t set your ladder up so that it is directly in front of a door. If that position is necessary, lock the door and put a warning sign on it. It is a better idea to have someone stands by to make certain that the door is not inadvertently opened.
8. Never climb an extension ladder or any long ladder on a very windy day. If you must use the ladder then, have someone hold the base of the ladder as you climb up, stay up there and work and when you climb down again afterwards.
9. An easy way to carry a ladder is to paint a strip at the center of it, then take hold of the ladder and you’ll have an even balance.
10. When climbing a ladder, face the ladder, going up and coming down, and take one step at a time.
11. If you’re working high up, don’t go any higher than the third rung from the top of the ladder and always wear skid-proof soled shoes. If you’re using a step ladder, do not stand on the top step; the highest you should go is the second step from the top on a tall stepladder, over 3 feet, or next to the top on shorter ladders.
12. A chore which needs both hands, such as hanging storm sash or screens, must be figured out beforehand, so that you don’t teeter on the ladder with your hands holding heavy or swaying objects. Have someone pass them up to you, or perhaps you can pull them up with a rope.
13. If you need both hands for a quick job, grab hold of a rung of the ladder with your leg, or perhaps pass your elbow through a convenient rung.
14. Don’t try to reach over too far, when on a ladder. It’s best to get off and to move the ladder the few inches. Don’t hold a paint can when you’re on the ladder; provide a hook on which to hang the can.
15. If you own an extension ladder, and want to raise or lower it, brace the base of the ladder (on the ground) against your foot, and holding on to the ladder, lift it away from the house with one hand until it is almost vertical. Holding it with one hand, use the other hand to pull the rope which extends the ladder.
16. Furthermore, check the rope on your extension ladder periodically to see that there are no weak spots.