Extension ladders can be helpful in both home improvement projects and daily work, but they are also the root cause of many accidents. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 180,000 ladder-related injuries bring people to the hospital each year and account for approximately 150 deaths. Prevent accidents by using ladders in good condition and placing on sturdy surfaces at safe angles for projects 17 feet or higher.
One of the main reasons ladders fail is their condition. Before each use, inspect it for rust, cracks and bent or missing pieces. Make sure that bolts, rivets and rungs are snugly fastened. Tighten any loose components. If there are problems found that can't be fixed, don't use the ladder. Take the time to buy, borrow or rent one that won't cause an accident.
Choose a firm, level ground surface to stand the legs on, checking carefully for sturdiness and balance before climbing. If the ladder's feet are movable, make sure they are unfolded and resting against the ground. The top of the ladder should be set against a flat, even wall or surface that supports both sides, not straddling the middle of the rung. Upper legs should extend 3 feet above the horizontal edge.
When pulling out the ladder length, be sure each section latches on the rung securely. Do not tie or connect two individual ladders together to reach the desired height. The ladder should rest at a 75-degree angle, meaning the base should be 1 foot back for every 4 vertical feet it extends. For example, a ladder rising 24 feet should be 6 feet from the wall. Do not grasp where two rungs cross each other while opening or closing the ladder, to avoid pinching or crushing fingers.
Always climb facing the ladder. Use two hands when possible, but at least use one. Do not carry anything that could cause you to lose your balance, such as heavy objects or things that dangle and swing as you climb. Wear a tool belt for carrying smaller items. Have someone hold the ladder steady while you are climbing up and down. Consult the owner's manual for weight and use restrictions.
Surrounding conditions can pose safety threats. Avoid working near power lines with metal ladders where high voltage can arc, causing electrocution. Telephone poles can also be dangerous, interfering with tools and extended objects. Do not stand on the highest or second-highest rung where you can lose your balance. Wipe the rungs before and after each use to prevent slipping and sticking. Do a precursory visual check of the work area for hornet's nests, insect infestations, bats or other nature-related hazards.
- Photo Credit Photos by MJ Knoblock
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