Even if you don’t regularly use ladders in your job, with the holidays coming up you will likely be using a ladder to put up lights and other decorations. If you only use a ladder once or twice a year, be sure to review these important tips to stay safe this holiday season.

Pre-Work:

Before starting your project, you should check to make sure you’re using the right ladder for the job. There are a few different types of ladders (extension/straight, fixed access, tripod orchard, and stepladder), but if you’re completing household tasks, like putting up lights or clearing gutters, you’ll likely be using either a straight ladder or stepladder depending on the height.

Regardless of the ladder you’re using, be sure to check the load rating. The load rating needs to cover your weight AND the weight of your tools. You should also consider the material that your ladder is made of and whether it’s appropriate for your intended use. Aluminum and steel ladders conduct heat and electricity and should never be used for electrical work. Fiberglass and wood ladders are suitable for electrical work, but wood ladders are especially vulnerable to damage and decay. No matter what type of ladder you’re using, you should always inspect it, check for cracks, and ensure the frame, rungs, and feet are not compromised.

During Work:

When placing your ladder, make sure that the footing is on a firm, non-slip surface that is clear of any debris or hazards. You can also reduce the risk of a fall by wearing non-slip shoes and gloves. If you have to adjust the placement of the ladder, avoid pushing or pulling it from the sides – repeated sideways movement can make ladders wobbly since they are weaker in those directions. When you’re using any type of portable ladder, use the 4:1 ratio: for every four feet you go up, the ladder should be placed one foot out.

You should always face the stepladder when climbing up or down and maintain a firm grip with both hands. You have climbed too high if your knees are above top of the stepladder or if you cannot maintain a handhold on the ladder – and never stand on the top rung or step. Before you climb, always look up for powerlines and other overhead hazards and adjust the placement of your ladder if needed.

 

Check Out: Ground Ladder Policy and Safety Inspection

 

Post-Work:

Taking care of your ladder is important to ensure that it remains in good condition and useable for your next project. After each use, you should clean your ladder and ensure that any moving parts are well lubricated. Inspect for damage such as broken rungs, split side rails, worn or broken safety feet, and oil or grease which can make climbing surfaces slippery.

If your ladder is damaged, don’t try to repair it yourself. DIY repairs, such as tying or binding with wire, or painting over damaged areas, are not safe in the long-term and can hide cracks and weak points.

To take good care of your ladder, be sure to store it inside on horizontal racks with support every 2 meters. Protect yourself and others when your ladder is stored by fixing it to the wall or racks so that it doesn’t fall or present other hazards.

When using a ladder, always be mindful of your individual circumstances as well. Do not use a ladder if you are affected by medication or a health condition that affects your balance. Before you start your project, always make sure that you have a plan in the case of an accident, and never use a ladder if you are working alone and cannot get help easily.