As we transition from summer into fall and winter, the weather changes and so do our needs for home maintenance and, of course, the holidays. When planning your outdoor Halloween or holiday décor installations, consider ladder safety. Many homeowners use ladders only once or twice a year to put up Christmas lights or clean their gutters. Here’s a good refresher on how to use a ladder like the pros.
The fall rain means slippery surfaces, inclement weather and winds. When these occur, conditions become dangerous. It is even more risky transporting holiday lights or décor up and down a ladder in the colder and wetter months. In fact, OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires contractors to always maintain two hands on the ladder.
Remember — gravity never forgets. As soon as you set foot on the ladder’s first rung and pull your body off the ground, gravity works to bring you back to earth. Therefore, it’s no surprise — ladder safety begins from the ground up.
Below are some tips from the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), which their builder members provide as continuing education to their employees on safe work practices.
Start with a good foundation
Proper ladder setup will help prevent slips and falls. Place the base on a firm, solid surface. Avoid slippery, wet or soft surfaces. If you must put the ladder on a soft surface, place a board under the ladder’s feet to provide firm footing. Make sure the top of the ladder has firm support as well.
Set up for safety
Don’t lean a ladder against a windowpane or other unstable surface. If you’re using a straight or extension ladder, the angle of the ladder is the next critical safety factor. A straight or extension ladder should be placed 1 foot away from the surface it rests against for every 4 feet of ladder height. For example, if the ladder is 4 feet high, the bottom of the ladder should be 1 foot away from the support surface.
Extend and secure
If you use a ladder to access a roof or platform, make sure the ladder extends at least 3 feet over the roof or platform edge. Be sure to securely fasten straight and extension ladders to the upper support. If you have angled the ladder properly and still have doubts about its stability, have someone hold the ladder before climbing up.
If you’re using a step ladder, be sure to open it completely before you climb. If you must use a step ladder near a doorway, lock or barricade the door and post signs, preventing someone from opening it up and knocking you off the ladder.
Never climb with equipment in your hands
Use your pockets, equipment belt, or a tool pouch and raise heavy objects with a hand line. If you forget something, always climb down the ladder to retrieve it yourself; don’t have someone toss it up to you. Never ask someone to climb up the ladder while you’re on it and hand you supplies. It is dangerous to exceed the weight limits that each ladder can handle.
In bad weather, please reconsider using a ladder
Descend immediately if high winds, rain or other inclement weather begins. Wind force can blow you off the ladder. Rain can make the rungs and the ground slippery. Bitter cold can make metal ladders more brittle and can cause other structural damage. If you encounter bad weather while on a ladder, do not speed up to finish the job and risk injury. Wait and return to finish the job once conditions are safe again.
Other ladder safety tips:
– Use the right ladder for the job.
– Inspect the ladder before and after a job.
– Read all warning labels carefully and follow directions before you climb.
– Clean the ladder after each use to prevent dirt buildup.
– Wear clean, dry, slip-resistant shoes and use ladders with slip-resistant feet.
– Don’t stand any higher than the third rung from the top of the ladder.
– Don’t lean too far or overreach. Reposition the ladder closer to the work instead.
– Don’t use a ladder as a bridge or scaffold.
– Don’t put a ladder on a box, barrel or other object to gain additional height.
– Don’t use a damaged or unsafe ladder.
If ladder work is not up your alley, consider hiring a professional for this work. Irons Brothers Construction is proud to have received three National Safety Awards from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) for their safe work practices. More information on their local company can be found at www.ironsbc.com.
— By Melissa and Joseph Irons
Owners of Irons Brothers Construction, Inc.