Stay Safe On That Ladder

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - by Jay Bell, president, Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga

As the cold weather slowly fades and warmer temperatures become more and more common, many home owners’ thoughts in Chattanooga and the surrounding area turn to a traditional activity this time of year: spring cleaning.

But whether you enjoy getting your house in order or would rather tackle only the bare minimum of necessary chores, it’s important to work safely – especially if that work involves dragging out a ladder.

March is Ladder Safety Month. The Ladder Safety Institute has some helpful tips for home owners that are worth reading before climbing that first rung.

Choose the right ladder. Ladders are designed to hold a specific amount of weight, or duty rating – not just for the person climbing it but for the paint cans or toolboxes he or she may be carrying. Stepladders are not designed to be leaned against a wall. And extension ladders need to be able to be extended far enough to safety reach rooftops or peaked ceilings.

Don’t overreach. American Ladder Institute treasurer Dave Plotner has seen this too many times: “You are standing on a ladder painting, your ladder is up against a wall, and you lean over to try to paint just a little bit further away instead of getting down and moving the ladder over to get closer.” The ladder tips over, you can’t help but fall, and that, right there, is the No. 1 cause of accidents.

Don’t climb too high. The top rungs add stability: Ladders aren’t meant to be climbed all the way up. “You aren’t supposed to stand on the very top or the next step down, but most people climb above the highest standing level,” Plotner said. Buy a longer ladder – or hire a professional.

Many accidents happen when people climb the ladder carrying equipment or tools in both hands, Plotner said. Swing a rope up around the top of the ladder and pull the tools up after you.

In these muddy spring days, people doing outside work on a ladder may think that first placing a piece of plywood or other substrate on the ground and setting the ladder atop it will keep them safer because the ladder’s feet are less likely to sink into the ground. Not a good idea at all, Plotner says, unless the ladder is anchored to the substrate. An extension ladder with a leveling system is a much safer alternative. Or, he suggests, “wait till the conditions improve.”

Another thought: Contact the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga at or 423-624-9992 to get advice and recommendations on professionals who can help you with these spring cleaning chores – so you can keep your feet on the ground.

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