Ladder Safety

Ladder safety is pretty boring. It is however something you need to consider if you will be working on or near ladders.

It is highly unusual for there to be a painting job that does not involve a ladder. It is safe to say that there are few people with as much experience on and around ladders as painters. In all the years I have been on ladders I have only fallen twice. Once well over 30 years ago and last year. Both times the fault was poor footing of the ladder.

Well according to an Attorney in California (I wont disclose who) that makes a living suing people involved in ladder accident cases, the four most common causes for accidents with ladders are:

1. Selecting the wrong type of ladder- Use the right ladder rating and type for the job.

2. Using damaged ladders- ladders wear out over time and can become unstable.

3. Incorrect use of a ladder- Over reach is a big culprit on ladders.

4. Incorrect placement of a ladder- The big one. Stay on a stable base for the feet of the ladder.

Ladder safety is really pretty simple if you follow some basic rules. Use the right ladder for the job. Always place the ladder on level/firm ground. Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder- two feet and one hand, two hands and one foot.

In my experience it is the placement of the ladder that gets most people. It got me twice and both times I didn’t think I was taking any risks. First time the feet of the ladder slid on some wet grass. Second time the rocks the feet of the ladder were on shifted. Ladder went one way, I went the other.

Ladder safety on step ladders comes down to not stepping/standing on the top of the ladder or the top step. A good idea is to not climb higher then when the top of the ladder is parallel to your knees.

On extension ladders, place on stable surface and pitch the ladder at the proper angle. There is a trick to getting this angle right. Have your toes touch the feet of the ladder and when the top of the ladder is touching the side of a house for example, your hands should be able to grasp the rungs of the ladder that are at shoulder height when you hold your arms out straight from your shoulders. When you are around ladders for awhile you just know the angle but this is a good way to start if your not sure.

Another nice tool we like to use is a extension ladder stand off. It goes on the top end of the ladder and it is amazing how much more stable it makes the ladder. The only down fall is it make the ladder top heavy so set up and movement can be a pain.

There are weight ratings associated with ladders. I always buy either type I or I A . They are heaver then most ladders but just feel much stronger. I had some guys that mistakenly borrowed a homeowners ladder long long ago and I don’t know what it was made from but it folded up like a piece of cheap tin foil. It did’t have any ratings on it, which is a legal requirement.


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It is surprisingly difficult to find good ladders these days. All the paint stores would have truck load sales twice a year but not anymore. Competition from the big box stores and people settling for less. If you are looking for a good ladder, plan ahead. It might be something you have to order and wait a few weeks for.

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