To better understand why we shouldn’t do these things listed above, let’s take a look at each one in detail. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be better prepared for safety the next time you pull out the ladder to do a home project.
- Leave a ladder unattended
Leaving a ladder unattended is an accident waiting to happen. Just the other day, while my family and I were out for a family drive looking at some of the new homes being developed in the area, I noticed that the workers at one particular job site had left their ladder up against the partially framed house after a long day’s work. It could be very easy and tempting for a child or adult, to climb up to look around, unaware of any unseen danger.
Once you are done using the ladder, put it away. Not just laid down on the ground, but properly stored away to prevent its use.
- Use under poor weather conditions
Avoid using the ladder in poor weather conditions such as the rain, snow, or wind. Any one of these environmental conditions can increase the likelihood of an accident occurring.
Most ladders are made of metal and are extremely slippery when wet (rain or snow) and strong winds can push over any ladder.
Note: If you do HAVE to climb up the ladder in poor weather conditions, make sure to take every safety precaution possible.
- Have a person holding onto the base of the ladder for better support
- Use good gripping shoes
- Use two hands while going up or down the ladder
- Use PPE
- Climb on the non-rung side of a step ladder
Some step ladders have rungs or steps on both sides of the “A-Frame” design and others only have rungs/steps on one side with support bars on the other side. The support bars are not designed for a person to climb on or to handle weight directly on them.
To prevent the ladder from being damaged and compromising the design of the ladder, you should only use the step/rungs side of any ladder.
Never use a broken ladder for any reason, even if it is “real quick”. A bent or broken ladder should be discarded immediately. In fact, inspecting the ladder before using it is part of the ladders pre-use checklist which you can read about HERE.
- Shuffle, slide, or shake the ladder to move it
We’ve all been there, right – up on a ladder doing a project, whether for your home or on the job site, and you need to move the ladder over just a few inches to finish the job. You quickly assess the amount of time it will take you to climb down, move the ladder over, and climb back up, and compare that to simply performing a quick little shuffle or slide the ladder over while you skillfully hold on at the top.
Not surprisingly this is one of the major reasons why people fall from ladders. Always take the time to climb down and properly move the ladder over so that it is erected straight up and on even ground. If you would like to learn more about the major reasons why falls occur on ladders, read our other article titled, “Why People Fall from Ladders and How to Prevent Them”
- Pull or push on an object
While standing on the ladder, it can be extremely dangerous to try and push or pull on an object, regardless if it is big or small. The reason for this is because you don’t have the ability to brace yourself and counteract the force like you would if you were standing on the ground.
Remember, you are only as stable as the ladder.
- Use the wrong type of ladder for the job
A friend of mine has a lightbulb that needs to be replaced in a living room that has a 20-foot ceiling. When I asked him how he was planning on replacing the lightbulb, he said smiling, “Oh easily, I have a 15-foot ladder and I’m 6 foot”.
I quickly pointed out that ladders are not designed for the person to stand on the very top. The warning label on most ladders says to never ascend beyond the last step before the top of the ladder.
- Stand on the top of the ladder
I think I answered this in the point above. This too is one of the major reason why people fall from ladders which is mentioned in our other article. Your balance is even more compromised and you have absolutely nothing to brace against.
Never use a ladder that isn’t set up correctly. Step ladders must be fully folded out and the locks in place to prevent them from collapsing. Likewise, extension ladders must be locked in place to prevent it from sliding back down when in use.
- Tie two or more ladders together to make it longer
Let’s say you have a wall that is 20 feet high and you only have two 10-foot ladders. Which of the following should you do:
A- Rent or buy a 20+ foot ladder
B- Skillfully tie the two ladders together to make a 20-foot ladder
If you chose option B, I worry about you! Ladders are not designed to be tied together even though we may see the feat performed on YouTube fails compilation. This is certainly an accident waiting to happen.
- Exceed the maximum weight for the ladder
Ladders are designed to carry a certain amount of weight and not more. The person using the ladder plus all of his or her tools must not exceed the manufacturers recommended weight limit.
The weight limit will be shown on the side of the ladder. Exceeding this limit may damage the ladder and could put you at risk of injury.
- Slide down the ladder’s edge
I can remember watching a movie were one of the actors, a fireman, quickly slid down the ladder by placing his feet on the outsides of the ladder, his hands holding firmly onto the side while he slid down the ladder. I can remember thinking it would be cool to try.
Luckily I never did. While this looks fun, it can be dangerous. Especially if your fingers were to get caught on the side or you slip from a significant height.
- Skip steps/rungs
It can be annoying going up and down the ladder while working on a project, especially if you have to do it several times or are in a big hurry. It may be tempting to skip a step or two to save time.
Never Skip a ladder rung or step regardless of how much of a hurry you are in. It can compromise your balance and potentially lead to an accident.
- Climb the ladder with wet or slick shoes
This should be obvious, having wet or slick shoes can cause you to slip and fall while using the ladder. It’s best to have good gripping shoes. Shoes with a good grip on them will enhance your grip and hopefully help the efficiency of your climb.
- Use uncertified accessories
There are a lot of products on the market that you can add to your ladder to make a job easier. However, each of these products have undergone a series of tests to ensure that they will not interfere with the ladders functions and the safety of the user.
This means rigging up your own paint holder to the extensions ladder might not be the best idea.
- Sit on or face backward of the ladder
You should not use a rung/step of a ladder for a perch location. Not only is this uncomfortable, but can be dangerous. Without your hands holding onto the side of the ladder, there is only one way you can go if you slip – and that’s down.
- Carry heavy items up or down the ladder
Carrying a heavy 5-gallon paint bucket up the ladder can be dangerous. This not only shifts your balance, but also prevents you from holding onto the ladder with two hands.
Remember, there must always be at least three points of contact when going up or down a ladder -2 hands with 1 foot, or 1 hand with 2 feet.
- Catching an item thrown up to you
While using a ladder, you need to be focused on what your doing of the task at hand. Trying to catch a tool that has been thrown up to you will temporarily shift your focus from balancing on the ladder to catching the wrench.
- Goofing off or play around while up on the ladder
A fall from a ladder can have serious consequences of injury or even death. This is not the place to act silly or play around. People who have become too comfortable with using a ladder because they have been using one their whole lives are at the greatest risk of ignoring all the safety rules of proper ladder usage.