As we enter the fall and the temperatures have cooled down, many of us are spending more time outdoors making repairs and improvements to our homes. Last week, we reported some tips on how to clean gutters without a ladder. However, if you must access the roof to clean gutters or make other repairs, we encourage you to be safe and ensure ladder safety to avoid back injuries, or additional back pain flare-ups.
Ladder safety may seem obvious, but tell that to the 90,000 people who end up in ERs each year
The ladder should be:
- Not too short. Lots of injuries result from using a ladder that’s too short for the job. The right ladder should extend at least 3 feet over the top of the roof or work surface. Never put a ladder on top of something to extend its reach, and never stand on the top rung. Both are extremely dangerous.
- Not too old. Do not use an old, worn-out ladder. After being climbed on for a few years, ladders tend to break down. Inspect the ladder carefully before using it, and do not one with cracks or loose rungs. This is a common cause of serious injuries, since the ladder can break while you’re standing on it.
- Strong enough. Make sure the ladder can support both you and your load. You can do this by checking the label on the ladder that describes the maximum load rating. If the ladder’s “duty rating” is 200 pounds and you weigh 250, find another ladder.
- Slip-resistant. Make sure your ladder has slip-resistant feet. Talk with employees at the hardware store if you’re not sure what this means.
Set it up right
Even if you’re using the right ladder, you can still get hurt.
- Put the ladder on firm, level ground. A tilting ladder has a good chance of falling. If the ground is uneven, you can buy “leg levelers” — devices to make the ladder level on soft or uneven ground — at your local hardware store.
- Don’t place it near a door that may open. It may seem obvious, but people have done it.
- Test for the correct angle. Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at a 75-degree angle. Here’s how to test for it: Stand straight with your toes touching the front of the ladder, where it leans away from you. Stretch out your arms in front of you. If your palms touch the top of the rung that’s at shoulder level, the angle is correct.
- Keep away from wires. Don’t use a metal ladder near power lines, electrical equipment or a live wire. If you need to work near one, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder that doesn’t conduct electricity.
- Check the spreader braces on your stepladder to make sure they arelocked. The spreader braces — two little bars that you see on the side of a step ladder — are what keep the ladder from buckling on you, so they need to be locked in place to secure it.
Use it right
While you’re on the ladder:
- Have someone hold the bottom of the ladder. Too seldom done, this is one of the easiest ways to stay safe.
- Go solo. Only one person on a ladder at a time.It may seem intuitive to climb up and hand someone above you a tool, but don’t do it.
- Stay between the rails of the ladder — don’t lean out and reach for that paint can further down the roof. Instead, take the time to climb down, move the ladder and climb back up. Also, keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times, either two feet and one hand or one foot and two hands, and always face the ladder while climbing up or down.
- Stay off the top shelf and bucket shelf. The shelf where you store your buckets can’t support your weight and will almost certainly break.
- Don’t stand on the top three rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder. Those should be above the roof or work surface.