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Do-it-Yourself Ladder Safety Guide

by Amanda Miller

Climbing up a ladder

In 2004, the United States Department of Labor reported that the number of injuries and fatalities from falls from roofs and ladders had increased. This report focused on occupational injuries that generally occur among trained personnel, which speaks to an even greater safety concern over DIY projects utilizing ladders.

Most accidents occur from incorrect use of the ladder or materials. Before you begin a project make sure that you have gone through safety preparations and are familiar with the tools to be used. As in most DIY projects, the best safety precaution is to think out your task thoroughly before beginning. You should have confidence in both yours and your equipment's ability to complete the project.

Getting Started

Once you have decided that you need to use a ladder to complete your project, make sure that you have the right type of ladder. There are many types of ladders all with their own advantages and disadvantages, which may include weight and height limits. If you are not sure that your ladder is the best fit for the job, make sure to consult a professional.

Some qualities to look for in a ladder are:

How strong is it?
How tall is it?
Is it made primarily for indoor or outdoor use?
What material is it made out of (certain materials can have unique weaknesses or safety concerns)?
Does it have any cracks?
Does it have a coating such as paint that could cover defects?
Are the rungs secured?
Are the footpads secure and dry?

Diving into your Project

shaky footstoolWhile you may be eager to get started on your project, please take the time to ensure that your ladder is set-up correctly and that you know how to use it safely.

1. Make sure your ladder is steady. Place the ladder on a surface that is strong and level; also make sure that the ladder is not on top of any slippery materials.
2. If using a stepladder, make sure that the spreader arms are in the locked, open position.
3. If you are using a straight or extension ladder, make sure the ladder is resting at the correct angle to the wall or structure it is leaning on. The angle is normally 75-80 degrees. Or for every 4 ft high the ladder is on the wall, make the base 1 ft away from the bottom of the wall.
4. If using a straight or extension ladder, make sure that the top of the ladder is resting against a straight and solid surface.
5. Make sure that you have at least three points of contact with the ladder when working, such as two feet and one hand.
6. Wear flat shows or boots with grip when working on a ladder
7. Do not carry heavy items while climbing the ladder, use some type of hoist or pulley system to retrieve the items instead
8. Don't work on a ladder in strong wind
9. Never stand on the top two rungs of the ladder
10. Stay centered and facing the ladder when climbing or working

These ten tips will help keep you safe, but they are not all-inclusive! If you have any questions about your ladder's operation or safety concerns, make sure to consult your ladder's manufacturer.

Amanda Miller is an avid DIY-er and home repair enthusiast. She regularly reviews new products and tools on the market.

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