On Ladder Safety
What could be worse than working off a ladder if you’re afraid of heights? Working off a ladder which isn’t safe. Ladder safety is no laughing matter. A overabundance of do-it-yourself injuries can be attributed to poor tool safety with ladders heading the list.
There are as many different ladders as there are tasks which require one. They range from small single “step” ladders to long extension ladders for those hard to access areas. Ladders are constructed of wood, metal fiber glass or a combination of the three.
We like to recommend that you not be penny wise and pound foolish when purchasing a ladder. We suggest that you treat its purchase like any other tool that you acquire. Spend a bit more up front for a better product and it will pay big dividends in the long run in safety and lasting quality.
A six foot wood or aluminum step ladder is a staple for any home owner. For the average home with eight foot ceilings, it will give you everything that you generally will need when tackling home improvement and repair projects. You can change light bulbs at ceiling mounted fixtures, paint ceilings and walls and even use it to clean dirty rain gutters.
You’ll need an eight foot ladder if your ceilings are ten feet or greater. Anything less may tempt you to use the top platform as a step. That’s the part of the ladder that says “THIS IS NOT A STEP!” Remember, regardless as to the construction of a step ladder, the top platform is forbidden territory.
Another important factor when purchasing a ladder is the amount of anticipated use. If the ladder will be used frequently, you’ll want to spend a bit more for an upgrade model which will take the wear and tear. If it’s for occasional use something less elaborate will do.
Be sensitive weight ratings. If your tall or a bit on the rotund side you should always look for a ladder with a rating greater than the load which will typically be placed upon it.
Wood step ladders are adequate for the run-of-the-mill home owner. Aluminum ladders tend to be popular with do-it-yourselfers because they are light and easy to haul around, however in many cases they don’t offer the strength and stability of their wood counterparts. On the other hand, an aluminum an inexpensive aluminum ladder would be a far better choice than a cheaply constructed wood ladder which is nothing more than a stack of scrap lumber stapled together.
Be on the lookout for secure connections, metal supported wood steps and superior hinges when ladder shopping. Anything less will eventually end up failing you in the long run.
When using a step ladder make sure that the legs are fully extended and that each of the four feet are placed securely on the surface that support it. If that surface happens to be dirt or turf you may need to stabilize the ladder by placing the feet on fence boards or a sheet of plywood to prevent the feet from sinking into the ground and throwing you to the ground. Also, step ladders are NOT designed to be worked from which leaning against a wall.
Extension ladders are not as widely used as step ladders, but are an almost must for anyone with a multistory dwelling. Extension ladders of yesteryear were made primarily from wood — wood rails and rungs. Sometimes you’d find a mix of wood rails and metal rungs. Most modern extension ladders consist of aluminum or steel construction (rails and rungs). A rung is another word for step.
As with the purchase of a step ladder, consider spending a bit more for a unit which is constructed from heavier gauge material with sturdy welded connections.
Metal extension ladders are rated for weight just as with wood ladders. It’s always better to buy a beefier ladder for added support and durability. When we’re working eighteen feet off the ground we want as much dependability below us as possible–aside from the concrete that is.
And speaking of concrete, the surface that the ladder is placed upon is as important as the construction of the ladder. Whereas most quality built extension ladders have self adjusting feet with non skid rubber soles, it’s still of extreme importance that the working surface is solid. If the surface is dirt or turf you’ll want to place a solid piece of material like a fence board, for example, under the feet.
For added stability the bottom of the ladder should be on quarter of the ladder’s length from the base of the house. For example, if the ladder extends sixteen feet up the side of the house, the feet should be planted at about four feet from the base of that wall.
When working on the roof, the ladder should extend a minimum of two feet above the edge of the roof. Never climb onto a roof from the gable end. Before using the ladder, check it for loose rungs and cracked side rails. Don’t attempt to extent the ladder until you have placed it at the location where you will be using it. Once in place, pull the rope to raise it to the desired height.
Proper balance is of prime importance when working off of an extension ladder. Always keep hips between rails when climbing the ladder or when reaching out. Keep one hand on the ladder and the other free for work. When it comes to using a ladder, an ounce of prevention is most definitely worth a pound of cure.
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