Selecting the right ladder height may not be as simple as you think. There can be quite a difference between the actual measured height of a ladder and its usable length. With step ladders you should never stand on the top two rungs for safety reasons. Extension and straight ladders require that you stay off the top three rungs. Since the distance between rungs generally measures 1′, that eliminates 2′ to 3′ of height. Additionally, extension ladders require anywhere from 3′ to 5′ of overlap, depending on their length. If they are being used to reach a roof or platform, they should extend 3′ beyond the surface. Since straight and extension ladders lean against a supporting structure, the angle they are placed at will further reduce their reach. Remember to take all these factors into account when calculating what size ladder you will need.
- Step ladders should measure no more than 20′ in height
- Extension ladders should measure no more than 60′ in height
- Straight ladders should measure no more than 30′ in height
- Position straight and extension ladders at an angle, with the bottom placed a distance of approximately 1/4 of its total length away from the supporting wall
Every year thousands of people are injured in falls and other accidents involving ladders. The vast majority of these incidents are the direct result of unsafe and improper usage. The best way to avoid an accident is to observe a few simple safety rules. OSHA regulations, which were designed to prevent injuries on the jobsite, offer an excellent safety program that is equally applicable at both home and work.
Always face the ladder and use both hands when climbing
Carry tools and other materials in a belt, apron or pouch
Use a rope and bucket to pull up large, heavy or awkward items
Do not lean off the side of the ladder as it may tip
Never use a ladder when there are high winds<
Make sure step ladders are completely open and hinges are locked
Always double check that locks are secure on adjustable and extension ladders
Regularly inspect ladders for loose rungs, dents, cracks or sharp edges
Never use a ladder that has been damaged or appears unsafe
Ensure that the ladder is on a solid, level surface
Do not use ladders on ice or snow
Purchase a ladder that is appropriately rated to handle typical weight loads and usage
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