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Don't take a tumble while performing fall maintenance

Consumer Reports News: September 24, 2009 02:50 PM

With homeowners clambering up ladders to paint, clean gutters and perform other fall chores, the autumn months can be an especially dangerous time
 
Ladders play a big role in thousands of accidents around the home. A Consumer Reports analysis of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission found more than 160 deaths and 170,000 injuries related to ladders in 2007, the latest year for which full data is available. And over the past five years, more than 500,000 ladders have been recalled "due to fall hazards."

We've written about ladder safety in the past and would like to remind our readers about the Dos and Don'ts of ladder use. The two examples at right are definite Don'ts.

Inspection and maintenance
  • Keep ladders clean and dry. Wipe the ladder off after each use to prevent deterioration.
  • Wear and tear can cause a ladder to fail. Check all types—aluminum, fiberglass and wood—for cracks, dents and missing components.
  • Tighten reinforcing rods beneath steps and hinges, and check the lanyard on an extension ladder for deterioration.
Getting ready
  • Set up your ladder on a firm, level surface. Use leg-levelers if necessary. Never stack objects, such as lumber or stones, beneath a ladder leg to level it.
  • Lean a straight or extension ladder against a wall or other even, fixed object—never against a narrow tree or surface that cannot support both of the side rails.
  • Set up an extension ladder with the base 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet the ladder reaches up--that's 3 feet at the base for a 12-foot ladder, or roughly a 75-degree angle.
  • Use your stepladder only in the open, A-shaped position, never when folded. Make sure the spreaders are fully open and locked.
  • Be sure that your extension ladder extends 3 feet beyond the roofline or work surface.
  • When raising any extension ladder, be mindful of overhead power lines and other hazards. 
  • Before climbing, inspect the area where you'll be working for insect and bird nests. Check the area from below with a pair of binoculars.
Ups and downs
  • Use the right ladder for the job. Always select a height that doesn't require you to reach up or out in a way that destabilizes the ladder; keep your belt buckle centered between the rails. Don't use a stepladder to get to the roof.
  • When doing electrical work or working near an electrical power line, use only a wooden or fiberglass ladder. And remember that any ladder can conduct electricity when it's wet.
  • Don't allow anybody else on the ladder with you.
  • Climb and descend slowly, facing the ladder and holding the side rails with both hands (keep tools in a tool belt).
  • Keep both feet on the ladder and center your weight between the rails at all times.
  • Don't try to move the ladder when you're standing on it or try to "walk" it into a new position. 
  • Don't step above the labeled maximum height. Beyond that point, the odds of an accident increase significantly.

Essential reading. For more tips on sprucing up your home inside and out, read our Fall Cleanup Guide. Our Home & Garden blog also has helpful hints for homeowners.

   

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