During the month of March, Cleveland’s own American Ladder Institute encourages the public to learn about and practice safe ladder usage at home and in the workplace. If you use ladders frequently, a lot of this information may seem like common knowledge, but with the “solid foundation” from National Ladder Safety Month, you can refresh your practices and also teach other beginners the correct way to use a ladder.
Trident Restoration is helping to raise awareness of ladder safety by providing a breakdown of good practice habits and a list of resources for further information. Alongside spreading awareness, Trident is aiming to help decrease injuries and fatalities caused by ladder misuse.
When using a ladder, there are rules and guidelines you must follow to ensure the greatest possible safety while climbing on, off, up, or down the ladder. These guides are broken down into 4 categories:
- Choosing the right ladder
- Safety before the first step
- Safety while climbing
- Safety at the top
Choosing the Right Ladder
Whether you’re trying to reach something on the top shelf of your kitchen cabinet, or you’re outside cleaning out your gutters, having the right ladder for the job is crucial. If you don’t have the proper ladder for the job, not only will you struggle to reach the area efficiently, but you also risk falling off the ladder completely or tipping the ladder sideways. Pay attention to the following when choosing the right ladder for the job:
Consider the work environment
- If you’re working near an electrical source, don’t use a metal or aluminum ladder.
- Make sure the ladder is leaning against a surface free of obstructions in the climbing path. Also, be sure the ladder is stable on the ground and not on an uneven patch.
- Know the difference between a self-supporting step ladder, a non-self-supporting one, single or extension ladder.
Know the Length of the ladder needed
- When using an extension ladder, do not stand on any of the top 3 rungs. If you feel the need to use these rungs, consider getting a bigger ladder for the job
- When using a step ladder, the top cap is not intended to be stood on. If you feel the need to stand on the top step, think about getting a longer ladder. If you stand on the top step, you increase your risk of losing your balance and falling.
- The height of the ladder is the total length of the side rails.
Understand Duty Rating
- The duty rating is the total weight the ladder can support.
- The taller the ladder does not mean it can support more weight.
- Remember this calculation for determining the Duty Rating of your ladder: your weight + weight of protective clothing or equipment + weight of tools
Safety before the first step
Although there is a safety label on the ladder, it is important to be aware of the safety and rules associated with ladders before you start climbing them. Inspecting and cleaning the ladder beforehand is good practice and ensures the highest level of safety. Follow these steps before taking the first step:
Inspect the ladder
- Thoroughly inspecting the condition and mechanisms of the ladder is important. Use the list below for important checkpoints:
- Locks and Spreader Braces
- Steps and Rungs
- Connections and Fasteners
- Safety Shoes
- Ropes and Pulleys
Clean the ladder & Your Shoes
- Clean the ladder feet, climbing surfaces, and gripping surfaces so you don’t risk slipping.
- Cleaning the soles of your shoes maximizes traffic and helps avoid slipping.
Confirm that the ground is level
- The ground that the ladder will be standing on should be firm and level. Use ladder levelers if needed.
Be aware of the Surrounding areas, the weather, and yourself
- Make sure all doors surrounding the ladder are unable to be opened or locked.
- If using outdoors, be sure the weather is in proper condition for ladder usage. High winds and precipitation call for unbalanced climbing and slipping hazards!
- If you’re feeling tired, dizzy, or if you’re prone to losing your balance, think twice before stepping on the ladder.
Safety while climbing
After you’ve inspected the ladder and everything looks good, be sure to follow these guides while climbing the ladder:
Haste or Sudden Movement
- Climb slowly and deliberately and avoid any sudden movements
- Never attempt to move the ladder while standing on it
- Overreaching could lead to falling off the ladder or tipping it sideways
Lack of Attention
- Be attentive to yourself and your surroundings
Improper climbing posture
- Don’t stand too high and don’t straddle the ladder.
- Keep the center of your stomach between the ladder side rails while climbing and working
- Use toolbelts or assistants while climbing
- Face the ladder, always have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder at all times.
Carrying objects and not maintaining three points of contact
Safety at the Top
Once you’ve climbed the ladder and reached the top, follow these guidelines to avoid tipping or falling
Don’t stand on the top step or top cap.
- This is one of the most common mistakes that is made while on a ladder. Doing so can lead to a loss of balance very quickly.
Maintain Three Points of Contact
- if you’re working at the top of the ladder, be sure to have both feet firmly planted with your knees resting on the ladder for stability
- overreaching can lead to imbalance and can quickly tip the ladder. Keep the center of your stomach between the side rails