Ladder Safety Tips for Homeowners

A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on ladder safety shows startling statistics concerning the frequency and severity of ladder-related accidents in the United States. Every year, thousands of people are injured, with hundreds fatally so. Luckily, by understanding the leading causes of ladder accidents, we can prevent the vast majority.

Ladder Accidents by the Numbers

  • More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries every year 
  • Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually 
  • These deaths account for 15 percent of all occupational deaths 
  • OSHA believes 100 percent of all ladder accidents could have been prevented if proper attention to equipment and climber training were provided 
  • Over the last 10 years, the number of ladder-related injuries has increased by 50 percent 
  • According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50 percent of all ladder-related accidents were due to individuals carrying items as they climbed 
  • Covering 32 percent of cases, the most common type of ladder-related injury is fractures

As you can see, ladder accidents, though entirely preventable, are incredibly common The following four causes of accidents account for the vast majority:

1. Selecting the Wrong Type of Ladder
Each ladder is designed to support a maximum weight limit, and if the climber exceeds that limit, the ladder could break and cause the user to fall or become injured. There are three basic types of ladders:

  • Type III – Household, light-duty, load capacity of 200 lbs. 
  • Type II – Commercial, medium-duty, load capacity of 225 lbs. 
  • Type I – Industrial, heavy-duty, load capacity of 250 lbs. 
  • For extra heavy-duty work such as roofing and construction, there is the Type IA with a 300lb rating; the strongest type of ladder is the Type IAA (holding 375lbs) for heavy industrial construction work.

2. Using Worn or Damaged Ladders
Another common contributing factor to ladder accidents is the use of old, worn, or damaged ladders. Thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found, don’t use the ladder until it’s been safely repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications. When in doubt, replace the ladder entirely.

3. Incorrect Use of Ladders
Human error is by far the leading cause of ladder accidents. Never use a ladder in any other way than what the manufacturer intended it to be used for. Important usage tips include:

  • Do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way. 
  • Use three points of contact (feet and hands) at all times. 
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes. 
  • Don’t carry anything while climbing a ladder. 
  • Never allow more than one person on a ladder at a time. 
  • Always face the ladder when ascending or descending. 
  • Extend the ladder three feet above the roof, and use tie-offs and/or stabilizers. 
  • Never try to move a ladder while standing on it.

4. Incorrect Placement of Ladders
Follow these tips for correct placement of ladders:

  • Place the ladder on level and firm ground. 
  • Ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked, or guarded. 
  • If possible, have a helper support the base while a ladder is being used. 
  • The feet of the ladder can be staked if you are using a ladder outside and no one is available to support the feet of the ladder. 
  • Do not use a ladder that is too short for the necessary height. 
  • Do not place the ladder on top of an elevated surface or object to extend its reach. 
  • Use a 1:4 ratio in placement of the ladder. Place the ladder base one foot away from the surface it’s leaning against for every four feet of height to the point where the ladder contacts at the top (near a 75-degree angle).

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