Perspective Newsletter

Spring chores? Top tips to climb your ladder safely

Worker climbing a ladder

Do you know where your belt buckle should be when you climb a ladder? Ever heard of the 4:1 rule?

No? Neither did this guy.

Two men painting with a dangerous ladder

Love a good meme? Us, too, including this Googled gem captioned, "Why women live longer than men."

Each year, ladder falls send 90,000 Americans to the emergency room. Half of them fell while climbing with something in their hands.

We asked our adjusters about the scores of warnings that come with ladders, and they named these as top must-dos when you tackle your ladder-climbing spring chores.

  1. Check the ladder before you climb. Cracked rungs or side rails, missing feet, faulty locking systems? Don't risk it! Ditto if the ladder isn't long enough for the job. Ladders should extend at least three feet beyond the surface you'll be stepping onto. And those innocent-looking pull-down attic ladders? They need an inspection, too.
  2. Follow the 4:1 rule. For every four feet of elevation, make sure the extension ladder's base is set one foot out. Also, make sure the feet are resting on firm, level ground to keep the ladder from tipping. Ideally, you'll have a "ladder buddy" who can hold it steady, with one hand on each rail and a foot on the bottom rung, as you climb. Or, if you're going solo outside, you can brace the ladder with stakes and a cleat to keep the feet from slipping. 
  3. Skip the lean and reach. If your belt buckle is outside the rails, you're leaning way too far. Maintain three-point contact with the ladder at all times. That means either two feet and a hand or two hands and a foot. And stay off the top rungs and the paint shelf.
  4. Never set a ladder in front of a closed, unlocked door. If it's opened, you'll go flying.
  5. Keep your hands free. Use a tool belt to carry tools when climbing.
  6. Look up. Watch out for electrical lines above when carrying a ladder, and always make sure you're facing the ladder when you climb.

Want more tips? You'll find safety videos for step, extension, and articulated ladders on the American Ladder Institute's website.

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