Planning to decorate for Christmas or finish up those projects? Ladder Safety is crucial!
Do you like to be handy around your house, taking care of all the little and big projects that come with being a homeowner, but are concerned about climbing a ladder? Or maybe you want to hire a handyman or contractor to do the job. Ladder safety is serious business, but with the right type of ladder and the right precautions, they can help to easily tackle all those projects that need a little elevation.
The Unknown Liability Every day, homeowners nationwide unknowingly expose themselves to liability because unlicensed or uninsured contractors are improperly using ladders on their properties. If a contractor sustains bodily injury on a homeowner’s property, the homeowner could be held financially responsible for the damages. This can include the worker’s medical payments, lost wages, and any potential permanent injury settlement. It is imperative that homeowners know the proper ladders to use inside and outside of their home, and, more importantly, be sure the contractors they hire are both licensed and insured. According to The Home Depot, there are 11 different types of ladders, and 3 primary materials they can be made from. The types are:
• Step Ladders
• Multi-Position Ladders
• Extension Ladders
• Straight Ladders
• Platform Ladders
• Attic Ladders
• Step Stools
• Fire-Escape Ladders
• Leaning Ladders
• Podium Ladders
• Telescoping Ladders
Choosing the Right Ladder
Ladders are made from fiberglass, aluminum, or wood. The first step, no pun intended, you need to take is to choose the right ladder. If it is not the right height or sturdy enough for the project you are undergoing, you might be putting yourself in a precarious situation. Answer these questions while choosing the right ladder for the job:
1. Is it tall enough to reach where I need to go?
2. How much weight will be needed to hold the ladder in place?
3. Is the job indoors or outdoors?
Found most commonly, a Step Stool consists of only 2-3 steps and Step Ladders, 3-5 steps. Both come in multiple sizes to perform different tasks. These are self-supporting due to the shape, and are lower to the ground; however, slip-and-fall accidents are still common. Platform Ladders are a safer alternative with a platform at the top, which increases the surface area for workers to support themselves and their equipment. Similarly, the Multi-Position Ladder can be folded into a self-supporting shape. This ladder’s size and shape can vary depending on how it is being used, which makes it versatile, but also creates more opportunities for accidents if used incorrectly. Extension Ladders and Straight Ladders are two very similar types. They both require a wall or a supportive surface to lean against. Extension Ladders, as the name suggests, can be extended to various heights for different projects. These two are primarily used for outdoor projects and those where contractors would be required to be much higher up to complete the task at hand. Attic Ladders are often installed in homes to safely and easily access attic spaces, and Fire-Escape Ladders can also be standard in homes, depending on the design of the building. A Podium Ladder can increase your workspace area by pivoting in any direction. Finally, a Telescoping Ladder can be extended to full length or folded into a variety of heights and positions. Its size and weight capacity can vary depending on its intended use (so homeowners should note any obvious changes in weight if contractors ask to use theirs). Of the three main materials used in ladder construction, wood is the least common and least durable. Ideally, homeowners would have ladders that consist of either fiberglass or aluminum. However, these two material types are not completely interchangeable for every use. Aluminum is a durable, lightweight material that is easy for contractors to transport between jobs. However, it’s important that homeowners recognize that an aluminum ladder should never be used when doing electrical work. Aluminum is a metal, which conducts electricity, and being on one around power lines and electrical circuits could endanger the user’s life. Fiberglass ladders are very durable and non-conductive, making them a safe alternative for tackling electrical work. Another characteristic to note is that fiberglass is heavier than aluminum. This can provide for greater stability but can also create more potential for bodily injury if not handled properly.
Aside from using the correct ladder for the job, and handling it properly, there are some general safety rules all homeowners should follow and enforce to avoid injuries to themselves or contractors:
• Face towards the ladder and center your body between the rails.
• Always maintain three points of contact between your body and the ladder.
• Do not lean over the side of the ladder.
• Don’t skip steps when climbing down a ladder.
• Don’t stand above the highest level of the ladder.
• Be sure proper, non-slip footwear is worn.
• If you must use a ladder in severe weather, have another person hold the ladder for stability, but avoid using a ladder in intense winds whenever possible.
• Use a belt, apron, or pouch to carry tools and materials up a ladder.
• Use a rope and bucket to pull up large, heavy, or awkward items.
• Make sure step ladders are completely open with hinges locked.
• Double-check that locks are secured on a ladder that is adjustable or able to extend.
• Make sure all ladders are properly maintained before being used.
• Don’t use a ladder that is damaged or appears unsafe or unstable.
• Only use a ladder on a solid, level surface; do not use on ice or snow, or if it is wet.
• Observe duty ratings that are posted on the ladder, which include different weight limitations for each type of ladder.
• When carrying an extension ladder, the center should be balanced, resting on the shoulder with one arm through the ladder for stability.
The Numbers Don’t Lie: Make Ladder Safety a Priority
There are more than 300 ladder-related deaths and over 130,000 emergency room visits related to ladders each year, as well as 2,000 ladder-related injuries every day. Improper ladder use has serious implications—it’s time to get serious about ladder safety. Ladder use is everyone’s responsibility, and safety should always be the top priority, regardless of whom is operating it. Avoiding an on-the-job accident that could cause serious injury or even death should be paramount for everyone involved. However, for homeowners to avoid the financial liability in the event of a ladder-related accident on their property, it’s critical to verify current licensing and insurance coverage BEFORE the work is started. If assurance cannot be provided by the contractor, and they won’t offer a legal waiver of responsibility, homeowners are encouraged to find a different contractor who will happily meet these qualifications.