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Originally published Friday, December 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM

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How to use a ladder properly

Tips to keep your climb safe when decorating for holidays.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Home Fix

Thanksgiving is past and it’s time to trim the home with Christmas decorations. Having already hung my lights during a warmer weekend, I couldn’t help but notice some of my fellow holiday enthusiasts trying to take advantage of the three- to four-day weekend to complete their decorations.

What I observed was their lack of basic safety issues when using either an extension ladder or a stepladder.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 165,000 Americans require medical treatment for ladder-related injuries each year. Based on a 1990-2005 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that number is escalating.

During the study, the number of reported cases involving ladders climbed by more than 50 percent. That equated to more than 2.1 million individuals being treated in hospital emergency departments for ladder-related injuries.

To keep your holidays safe, here are some tips from the American Ladder Institute, www.laddersafety.org/basicladdersafety.aspx:

• If you feel tired, dizzy or are prone to losing your balance, stay off the ladder.

• Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.

• Wear clean, slip-resistant shoes, and not ones with leather soles.

• Before using a ladder, inspect it to confirm it is in good working condition and reject ladders with loose or missing parts, and rickety ladders that sway or lean to the side.

• The ladder you select must be the right size for the job. The length must be sufficient so that the climber does not have to stand on the top rung or step.

• The duty rating of the ladder must be greater that the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies and other objects placed upon the ladder.

• The ladder must be placed on firm, level ground and without any type of slippery condition present at either the base or top support points.

• Only one person is permitted on a ladder unless it is specifically designed for more than one climber (such as a trestle ladder).

• Ladders must not be placed in front of closed doors that can open toward the ladder. The door must be blocked open, locked or guarded.

• Read the safety information labels on the ladder. The information is specific to the particular type of ladder. The climber is not considered qualified or adequately trained until familiar with this information.

• Never jump or slide down from a ladder or climb more than one rung/step at a time.

When climbing a ladder, it is safest to use three points of contact because it minimizes the chances of slipping and falling. At all times during ascent or descent, the climber must face the ladder and have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in contact with the ladder cleats and/or side rails.

The climber must not carry any objects that can interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. Otherwise, three points of contact with the ladder cannot be maintained adequately and the chance of falling is increased in the event a hand or foot slips.

Factors contributing to falls include haste, sudden movement, lack of attention, the condition of the ladder, the user’s age or physical condition, or both, and the user’s footwear.

Although the user’s weight or size typically does not increase the likelihood of a fall, improper climbing posture may cause falls.

To reduce your chances of falling during the climb:

• Wear slip-resistant shoes with heels and heavy soles to prevent foot fatigue.

• Clean shoe soles to maximize traction.

• Use towlines, a tool belt or an assistant to convey materials so that the climber’s hands are free when climbing.

• Climb slowly and deliberately while avoiding sudden movements.

• Keep the center of your belt buckle between the ladder side rails (or within the width of the cleats) when climbing and while working.

• Do not overreach or lean while working.

Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector. Contact him at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or barnett@barnettassociatesinc.com. Sorry no personal replies. Always consult local contractors and codes.


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