Ladder Safety – One Step at a Time
Ladders and steps are an essential item to have in any home – from a small two- or three-step ladder for use in the kitchen, for instance, to a multi-stepladder or extension or multi-purpose ladder for general work.
However, if used carelessly or incorrectly, any ladder can be the cause of serious accidents and injuries. Generally, the higher you are, the greater the risk, if for no other reason than because the greater the height of the fall, the greater your momentum, and the harder you land.
Having said that, even a fall from the first step or rung (stepladders have steps, while extension ladders and similar have rungs) can result in serious injury.
So, here are a few simple rules to help reduce the chance of an accident to a minimum:
- Wear non-slip footwear that also fastens securely – slip-on sandals are a no-no.
- Pull material up by rope – use both hands when on a ladder.
- Never try to reach beyond what is possible when up a ladder. Rather dismount and move it over to where you can easily reach what you want to reach.
- When using an extension ladder, make the angle between it and the wall about 75°. [A simple way to establish the angle is to fold a square piece of paper diagonally (to give you an angle of 45º) and then again to give you an angle of 22.5º. The angle should be more than the latter; if less, move the feet out.
- Drive a strong stake into the ground at the ladder’s one foot and tie the foot to it. [Keep the stake as short as possible and tied to the one foot, rather than in the middle of the step. This will avoid injury should you slip… you don’t want the end of the stake doing you an injury, do you.)
- Tie the top of an extension ladder to something firm so that it cannot fall away from the wall or fall sideways.
- You can stop a ladder’s feet sinking into soft soil or damaging your lawn very easily… Simply attach a length of timber between the legs and about 20mm up from the feet so that the feet can gain purchase on the surface, but they will not sink in too far.
- Climb any ladder a couple of steps and bounce gently up and down a few times. If satisfied the feet will not move backwards, continue your climb and at the top, tie the top rung to a secure stay, such as a roof truss.
- You can now work up the ladder without the fear that it might slide away from under you, or fall away from the wall.
- Even if you have done a great job slip-proofing the rungs, never mount a ladder unless you really have to when the soles of your shoes are wet due to rain or heavy dew.
Make your Ladder Rungs Slip-Proof:
Use masking tape to demarcate the top portion of the tread – you need to have the slip-proofed region as wide as possible. Now apply a coat or two of enamel paint and while the paint is still wet, dust it liberally with coarse sand. Wait for the paint to dry, apply another coat, apply sand again, and finish off with a fourth coat over the last layer of sand. Remove the masking tape when the upper coat has dried.
It’s a good idea to select a bright colour such as bright yellow for your colour choice… not only will you have a non-slip surface, but the rungs will stand out better even in low-light conditions.
You now have an effective high-visibility, non-slip surface.