12 ladder safety tips

September 15, 2015

Better to be safe than sorry when dealing with ladders. Follow these safety suggestions before you make the climb. 

12 ladder safety tips

1. Make sure the ladder can hold your weight

  • Make sure your ladder can handle your weight and the weight of the tools and materials you'll be carrying. Ladders are rated for load capacity.
  • Always buy a ladder rated Type I (heavy duty) or Type II (medium duty); they're sturdier and safer than Type III (light duty).

2. Check your angle

  • To make sure you've got your ladder at the correct 75-degree angle, stand straight with your toes at the foot of the ladder. From that position, you should be able to stretch out your arms and rest your hands on the rungs at your shoulder height.

3. Keep your ladder on firm footing

  • You need to give your ladder firm footing when the ground is rain-soaked or muddy. Set the ladder's feet on a wide board or a solid piece of plywood staked into the ground.
  • To keep the ladder's feet from shifting, nail cleats to the board at the base and at the sides.

4. Watch the weather forecast

  • If you plan to use a ladder to access your roof, make sure that the weather forecast for that day is favourable.
  • Work on a dry, mild, windless day after the dew evaporates. Severe heat and cold, gusty winds and wet and icy surfaces are all hazardous.

5. Store in a secure place

  • Never store a ladder outside or in an unlocked garage. A burglar may use it to reach an unlocked window that would otherwise be out of reach.
  • If you have to leave a ladder out, chain it securely to a tree or a fence post.

6. Use an old pair of rubber boots

  • On more solid ground, you can create a foothold for a ladder that doesn't have rubber feet by slipping the ladder's feet into an old pair of rubber boots. This will give the ladder added traction and keep it from sliding while you're climbing.
  • You can also tie a ladder's feet to stakes in the ground.

7. Cover the top ends

  • Before leaning the top end of a ladder against your siding, slip a couple of old heavy socks over each top end and tie them in place with string.
  • You can also tie old rags around the ends or put old work gloves over them, or you can buy rubber covers that fit over the ends.

8. Extend the ladder above the edge of the roof

  • When you are using a ladder to climb onto the roof, make sure to extend it so that the top is at least one metre (three feet) above the edge of the roof. This gives you something to hold onto when you are stepping onto or off the roof.
  • Always start from a rung below the roof edge and step up onto the roof.

9. If you have to rest a ladder against a window

  • If a job calls for you to rest the top of your ladder on a window, buy a U-shaped stabilizer bar that attaches to the top of the ladder to span windows.

10. If you have to rest a ladder against a door

  • When putting a ladder in front of a door, lock and brace the door so that no one can unknowingly fling it open, toppling the ladder (and you).
  • Warn other people in your household where and when you'll be working from such heights.

11. Stay away from power lines

  • When you are setting up or moving a ladder and when working on it, be careful to stay away from power lines. A metal or wet wood ladder is especially hazardous.

12. Use both hands when climbing

  • Use both hands to steady yourself as you climb. When working, keep your weight centred between the side rails. Overreaching may end in disaster.
  • You'll be okay if you remember this rule: Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder — either two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand.
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