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Extension ladder safety

One of the most common reoccurring situations that I have seen Care-A-Vanners faced with is ladder safety on a job site. The construction sites can be hill sides, unlevel ground, muddy ground and a
variety of other unusual terrain situations where you need to put a ladder.

What are some practical tools or tips to keep your ladder stable and you safe while you climb and stand on it to work?

  1. If you have a choice in ladder style always ensure that you are using the right ladder for the job. Don’t try to make an extension ladder work for a step ladder and visa versa.
  2. If you plan on leaning the ladder against the structure then the extension ladder is the way to go. It has the proper feet and strength to fill the need.

Extension ladders:

  1. When you place the ladder on the ground, make sure the ladder is stable and level (not leaning left or right).
    1. A very simple way to level the ground is with a shovel.
    2. Sometimes the ground is very hard and shovels barely scratch the surface.
    3. I find that the claw end of a big straight claw hammer works great as a digging tool to level your ladder feet.
  2. You’ll notice that the feet on extension ladders rotate.
    1. There are rubber pads for solid surface like concrete.
    2. If you rotate the feet so the rubber pads are facing forward or back you’ll notice that one of the foot ends is pointed or extended to dig into the ground.
    3. This is what to use if you are on the soil no matter how hard it is.
  3. Do not use scraps of lumber and plywood for ladder bases as they can slip out and you and the ladder will experience a fast ride down.
  4. How steep of an angle should you use to place the ladder?
    1. A good rule of thumb is 1’ back for every 4’ up.
    2. A quick and simple way is to stand with your toes touching the base of the ladder and your arms extended straight out.
    3. You should be able to grip or touch the rungs even with your shoulders.
    4. Always keep the bottom of the extension ladder at least 3’ from the wall as a starting point.
  5. If you are going on the roof always extend your ladder 3 feet above the roof.  This allows the ladder to stay leaning against the roof if it happens to slip or readjust a bit and gives you better position to get on and off the ladder.
  6. If you plan to use the ladder for multiple trips to and from the roof it is imperative to place (nail) a 2x4 on the fascia to lean the ladder against and tie the ladder to it. Not all jobsites will have rope and eye bolts handy to tie off the ladder so you may need to improvise.
  7. Remember that after you place the ladder and it’s stable you should not reach sideways so that both your shoulders are on the outside of the ladder rails. It’s time to move the ladder if this is your situation.

I’ve covered a few of the aspects of ladder safety and hopefully some of the above may help you stay safe on the jobsite.

Frank Peccia,
Keizer, Oregon