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Using a ladder safely

Posted by Adrian
September 1st, 2009

Graphic of fallen ladder, split paint and broken window
When using any kind of ladder you need to think about what you are doing, as it is easy to fall from a ladder and seriously injure yourself or worse!

There are a few simple things you should do when doing any work on a ladder, whether it is a stepladder or an extension ladder.

Some important things to remember are:-

Do not over reach:
Sounds obvious but often forgotten, only work to where you can reach, then move the ladder.

Do not have the ladder at the wrong angle:
Most ladders will have safety information on them including a red line indicating the correct angle for the ladder. Ensure this line is vertical before going up it. If the ladder is too steep you can over balance the ladder and topple over, also if the foot of the ladder is too far out it can easily slip away; especially on gravel!

Get someone to ‘foot’ the bottom of the ladder:
Get someone to stand (or foot as it’s known) on the bottom of the ladder (first rung only) giving you extra security and knowledge the ladder will not slip away.

Always keep 3 points of contact with the ladder:
By keeping both feet and at least one hand on the ladder whilst working or going up and down the ladder you are less likely to fall off.

Use ladder paint can hooks for paint pots:
When painting and using a ladder it is always a good idea to use ladder paint can hook, this will free up one hand to hold on. All these hooks are a ‘s’ shaped piece of metal, you can make your oven out of a metal paint can handle. Ideal for this job is a 10 litre paint can or bucket handle bent into a ‘s’ shape.

Make sure ladder is on firm ground, not gravel:
You should never use an extension ladder on gravel, as it will slip away, either move the gravel away until you find hard standing or use a scaffold tower etc. You can rope the bottom of the ladder and tie it in at the bottom, but be careful! Some modern extension ladders now come with a stabilizing bar at the bottom giving you some stability.

Never carry too big or awkward objects up or down a ladder:
Never carry heavy, awkward or large items up a ladder with you as this could over balance you or make you lose your balance. Use a pulley system to lift items, say onto scaffolding or a roof.

Always check for overhead cables:
Always check that there are no overhead cables, especially electrical cables, as you lift and move the ladder about. Never work too close to cables where you may lean onto cables. You can get the electricity company to put a shroud near to where you are working if it is very close to cables such a fascia.

One person on ladder at a time:
Only one person should be on the ladder at a time (except if they are ‘footing’ it for you at the bottom) as ladders do have a maximum weight and exceeding this could lead to the ladder breaking.

Make sure the ladder is fit for purpose:
Make sure the ladder is suitable for the job and in good condition, for example not broken or damaged.

Disclaimer: This article is for general information only. No responsibility or lability can be taken for injury and/or damage whilst using a ladder following reading this article.

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