Ladder Safety and The Ups and Downs

Mike Willis
Mike Willis

“The ladder of success must be set upon something solid before you can start to climb”Voltaire

Even though he wasn’t specifically speaking about a ladder, Voltaire makes an outstanding observation when it comes to the proper use of a ladder.  As you weekend warriors begin to tackle those necessary fall tasks around the house remember that on a yearly average, 187,000 people will be injured and then treated in a hospital after serious run ins with their ladders.  A whopping 97% occur at homes, farms and other non-occupational settings.  It looks innocent enough, standing there but like any other piece of equipment, if not inspected and handled properly you too can be rewarded by spending the weekend in emergency.


DO Before you use it, inspect the ladder and make sure it is in operational shape.  Wooden ladders have a tendency to break down over the years and all types of rungs can become unstable and a hazard.  After you examine the ladder, If there are any flaws and/or you have any doubts, throw it out!  Buy a new one and go metal this time unless you do electrical work then wood or fiberglass is the way to go.                                                                                                                                                               DON”T – use the last words:  I can use it one more time.  As sure as lighting a cigarette brings the bus or mentioning any kind of streak ends it, this line will get you firmly planted on your butt and possibly E.R.

DO – When ever using a ladder around the house or at work it’s always a good policy to work in pairs.  It doesn’t hurt to have someone there to help stabilize the ladder and get tools as well as serve as a spotter if something were to happen.  Always climb using both hands and hoist needed tools if they prevent you from using both hands.                                                                                                                        DON’TDo It Alone.  If you fall and there is no one there to hear it, it still hurts and bones break.

DO – As Voltaire says, make sure to use a ladder on a firm evenly level base that is dry and clear of debris.  The ladder should be stationary without any wobble, tilting or any chance of the ladder slipping.  You want to be able to stand safely on the ladder while completing tasks.                        DON’T do a balancing act on the ladder and use on un-level ground or not on firm footing unless you intend to practice to perform in the circus or sideshow.  Set yourself up for success, NOT E.R.


DO – Use the appropriate size ladder for the job at hand with the correct weight limit.  You want to be able to comfortably reach the area you’re working on and keep the ladder in the proper balanced position.                                                                                                                                                          DON’T – Over extend yourself or stand on the very top rung and put yourself in a position of falling.  You are not auditioning for a sit-com and you don’t have a stunt double.

For fixed ladders, any ladder permanently attached to a structure, make sure to have a training program in place before allowing individuals to use it.  I strongly suggest you do the same if you have man-lifts in your facility as these can be extremely dangerous for those not familiar with their use.    Don’t use a ladder for anything other than a ladder and as with any piece of equipment, treat it with respect, use properly, take the necessary precautions and you’ll get to spend more time with the family and loved ones.

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