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Gert's Dirt: Ladder safety

From Donna Bellino
I had an injury a few years ago after a fall from a ladder. I was using a step-ladder, but I hadn't opened it up and locked it into place. Instead, I had leaned it up against the outside wall of the house. I placed it in the sandy ground, grabbed the hummingbird feeder and up I went. I only got to the second rung when the ladder tipped in the sand and I fell. I had a badly fractured ankle that required surgery. I was in the hospital for three days. I could not bear weight on it for three months and I could not go to work for two months. I did everything wrong, in this case. Fractured bones are the most common ladder injury.
 In the cleaning business, we use ladders.  Most households have at least one type of ladder on hand. Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds killed while using  ladders.
 Understanding the causes of ladder accidents could  prevent you from an  injury like mine or something worse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a study of 1,400 ladder accidents, 66 percent of those injured had not been trained how to inspect ladders for defects before using them. Nineteen percent of the ladders involved in accidents had one or more defect. Thirty-nine percent of the ladders had not been extended three feet above the landing level and 53 percent of the ladders broke during use. Fifty percent of all ladder-related accidents were due to individuals carrying items as they climbed. How do you stay safe while using a ladder? Here are some important tips.
  • The "three point of contact" climb: You must have two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot in contact with the ladder at all times. The climber must not carry any object that will interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. 
  • If you feel tired, dizzy or do not have good balance, stay off ladders.
  • Wear clean, slip-resistant shoes.
  • Climb facing the ladder. Center your body and keep your hips square to the rungs.
  • Do not overreach or lean while working on a ladder.
  • The ladder must not be used on ice, snow, slippery or unstable surfaces.
  • Inspect the ladder to assure it is in good condition.
  • When carrying a ladder, keep the front end elevated. Use caution around blind corners, in aisles and through doorways. If you are having difficulty handling  it, get someone to help you.
  • Do not place the ladder in front of closed doors that can open. The door should be propped open, locked or guarded.
  • Don’t use ladders alone. Someone should be nearby and perhaps even holding the ladder firmly while you use it.
  • Do not stand on the top cap or step just below that on a step ladder. The braces on the opposite side of the steps on a step ladder should never be used for standing. Always open a step ladder and lock the legs apart before climbing on it.  Place it on a stable, flat surface.
  • When using an extension ladder, the top three rungs are not to be used for climbing. An extension ladder is too long if it extends more than three feet beyond the upper support point.
  • Read the warning label that the manufacturer has placed on the ladder. Do not ever remove or cover this label.
 Ladders are tools. The safety rules for most tools apply to the use of a ladder as well. Donna Bellino is a registered nurse and owner of Gertie's Cleaning and Home Service. I care for you, your health, and your home. Gertie's: Naturally Clean!