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The risk of serious injury or death from a fall goes up exponentially with the height of the fall. According to a 2005 study, there are an average of 136,000 ladder-related injuries annually in the United States. Here are some basic ladder safety procedures and tips to keep you from being one of those statistics (from the Consumer Product Safety Commission):
- Select the right ladder for the job. The ladder should extend at least three feet past the roof or above the work surface.
- Do not use a ladder if you are tired or dizzy.
- Place the ladder on level and firm ground. Use leg levelers under the ladder to level uneven or soft ground. Leg levelers are devices that you can buy at a hardware or home improvement store.
- Check the ladder’s Maximum Load Rating. Make sure the ladder can support your weight plus the load you are putting on it with tools and materials
- Make sure your straight and adjustable ladders have both slip-resistant feet and are resting on surfaces that will not slide beneath the ladder. Also make sure that the top of a straight or extension ladder is resting against a non-slip surface. Wear slip-resistant shoes.
- Set up straight, single or extension ladders at about a 75–degree angle. To test if you have the correct angle, stand up straight with your toes touching the feet of the ladder as it leans away from you. Extend your arms in front of you. Your palms should touch the top of the rung that’s at shoulder level.
- Don’t use a metal ladder near power lines or electrical equipment. Stick with wood or fiberglass ladders in these situations and use extra caution. No ladder should ever touch a live electric wire.
- Check all rung locks and spreader braces on your ladder to make sure they are set.
- Have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder.
- Keep ladders away from a door that can be opened.
- Only allow one person on a ladder at a time.
- Center your body between the rails of the ladder at all times. Leaning too far to one side while working can cause you to fall. If you were to have a belt on, the buckle should never be outside of the right or left rail of the ladder.
- Do not stand on the top three rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
- Stay off of the ladder’s top step and bucket shelf. Labels on ladders warn you not to stand on them as well. Don’t try to climb or stand on the rear section of a stepladder.
- Only use a ladder for its intended purpose. And follow the ladder’s instruction labels.
- When you’re done with the ladder, put it away immediately. Never leave a raised ladder unattended.
The American Ladder Institute has a free set of training videos that illustrate safety procedures on a variety of ladder types.