Ladder Safety, Avoid Falling & Especially Landing

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Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker

Let’s talk ladder safety. But before we do, a brief caveat. If you have spent any time kicking around the site, you may have stumbled into the “About” section and had the misfortune of reading about me.  I made a statement about Ladders that I should not have said.  I am not here to talk about the past, nor have I ever used any DIY performance enhancing drugs.  (Coffee doesn’t count, right)?  I am merely studying levitation in an effort to relieve all ladders of their burden of holding us aloft.

Until I do find a way to levitate, using a ladder will have to suffice.  Once my findings are complete, the How-To will surely be readily available on this site.  What we all should know about ladders are:  Falling doesn’t hurt.  Landing does.  Use these ladder safety tips to keep you safe when using our friends: Ladders.

Duty Ratings: Ladders are universally assigned a duty rating.  This is a rating that determines the weight they can safely hold.  These aren’t suggestions for ladder safety, (like speed limits for driving).  A ladder that is being used beyond its duty rating can fail.  Don’t forget to take into account what you are carrying up the ladder as well as your own weight.

In case of erection lasting more than 4 hours: Ok, I just always have wanted to say that.  But seriously, before erecting your ladder know what is overhead.  Power lines are always a bad thing.  If something just has to be done remotely near them—the utmost caution must be taken.  You, your ladder, your tools, and your material should not get close to them.  And they definitely shouldn’t touch them. You are not a squirrel.

Inspection: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking—weather looks clear and just to let you know—our mechanics didn’t inspect the plane today.  Enjoy your flight.”  How fast would you get off that plane?  Same with your ladder.  Make sure everything is in working order before you climb it.

Placement: Your ladder should be placed with both feet firmly on the ground.  There shouldn’t be any “wiggle” when placing it.  When a load is placed on the ladder, that wiggle will multiply—potentially causing the ladder to slide.  This is possibly one of the most basic and overlooked elements of ladder safety. A good rule of thumb when placing a ladder is that for every 4 feet of height equals one foot away from the wall for the base of the ladder.  Take the time to inspect the area around you.  If there are doors, or windows that could be opened to upset your ladder: lock them, block them, and let everyone around you know where you will be working.  I’m not even going to tell you about the time my Labrador ran through her dog door while I was putting up a light.

Landing: In the event of a fall a little foresight can go a long way.  Make sure tools, materials, and other hurty stuff is not where you could potentially fall.  While you’re at it, put one of those stunt fall pads down there just in case. Everyone has a spare stunt pad for ladder safety right? Preventing falls is as easy as remembering a couple rules:  Always keep three points in contact with your ladder.  Two feet, one hand, two hands, one foot.  Do not lean your belly button outside of the uprights of your ladder.  If you can’t reach it—move it.  Depending on your build, the belly-button rule can vary. But you get the idea, don’t put your weight to the side of the ladder, lest the ladder decide to follow you the hard way. Even if it is not a long fall—it doesn’t take much to twist, sprain, or even break something.

Climbing/Descending: Use the two rules of ladder safety again.  Three points in contact with the ladder and center of balance.  Go up and down slowly.  Wear good shoes.  Don’t climb wet ladders.  Avoid carrying tools—use a tool belt or have someone hand you them.

Above all:  Work within your limits.  If something seems unsafe or beyond reasonable danger:  It probably is.  Try to avoid doing things that make you uncomfortable or nervous as your thoughts will be more on that than what will keep you safe.  No project is worth a serious injury.  Remember these ladder safety tips, and stay safe . . .  we need you as a reader!

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1 thought on “Ladder Safety, Avoid Falling & Especially Landing”

  1. Thanks for the duty rating and placement tips! I’ve got a few tree branches in the back yard that need to come down, so I’ll definitely use those when the time comes.


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