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March is Ladder Safety Month!

For the rest of 2017, we will post about something related to home inspections each month for one of our blog posts! With March being Ladder Safety Month, here are some important things to know when using a ladder around your home.

One of the best resources when it comes to safety is OSHA. They detail many things related to job safety but many of these items also apply to homeowners and work that they may perform themselves around the house. Obviously ladder safety is important in many lines of work, including home inspectors (especially in the pre-drone era). The OSHA website gives a very detailed list of how to properly use a ladder and what steps to take in order to prevent something terrible from happening. Here is an exact rundown of their recommendations regarding preventing falls from ladders, which they list as one of the most common work-related causes of injuries & fatalities:

  • Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.

  • Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.

  • Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.

  • Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing (see diagram).

  • Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.

  • Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.

  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.

  • Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.

  • Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.

  • Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.

  • Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.

  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support (see diagram). Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.

  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface (see diagram).

  • A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.

  • Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.

  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder’s load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.

These are general guidelines for safety when using all different types of ladders. Obviously this cannot cover every single situation that may arise, but following these general tips will keep you and those around you safer. There are also numerous educational resources and websites that can help to educate and train those you live & work with. Remember these tips so the next time you have to hop up on a ladder, you are as safe as can be!

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