If I asked 10 builders which tool they considered the most dangerous, I bet most would name the tablesaw. With close to 60,000 injuries each year and lots of media attention, the tablesaw is certainly a well-publicized candidate. I doubt anybody would pick their extension ladder.
However, every year there are about 160,000 ladder injuries, 300 of which are fatal. That’s nearly three times the number of tablesaw accidents and has shown a 50% increase in a 15-year time period.
It’s not that ladders are complicated to operate. In fact, I could teach a newbie how to use a ladder safely in half the time that it would take me to demonstrate the ins and outs of a tablesaw. Ladders are dangerous because their simplicity makes people overconfident, and overconfidence can quickly lead to carelessness.
The steps shown here are part of the American Ladder Institute’s (ALI) guidelines to setting up and using an extension ladder safely. There are also dozens of accessories—leg levelers and standoffs, for example—that can make a ladder even safer. For additional information on safety, including the proper use of stepladders, visit www.laddersafety.org