Extension Ladder Basics
How to move, raise, and secure these essential tools safely.
Synopsis: An owner’s manual for extension ladders, this article uses photo and drawings to explain how to work with these common, but potentially dangerous tools. Duty ratings are explained, along with the appropriate uses for different ladders (fiberglass vs. aluminum, for instance). Throughout the article, tips illustrate how to level ladders, secure them, and prevent them from damaging your house.
Like extension cords or hammers, ladders are one of those tools that have no substitute: Nothing else will get you up to paint that gable. Unlike smaller tools, however, ladders can be downright cumbersome unless you know how to maneuver them.
As any Three Stooges fan can tell you, ladder safety is a big concern. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that every year, more than 164,000 people are treated in emergency rooms and clinics for injuries related to ladder use. Most of the injuries are cuts, bruises, and broken bones, but more than 200 people die every year from ladder-related incidents.
“If ladder users would read and heed the labels that every ladder carries, most accidents could be avoided,” according to Alan Kline, president of Lynn Ladder and Scaffolding, a big New England manufacturer. “On my drive to work, I often see people using ladders in ways that make me cringe—like they read the label and did the opposite. (They are) accidents waiting to happen.”
As it turns out, a safe setup is more comfortable for your body, which lowers stress, increases efficiency, and improves work quality. Safer, heavier ladders, while more expensive at the outset, last longer and wind up being more economical. Safe ladder use has no secrets—it’s printed right on the ladder—and you can safely reach anywhere you want if you take the time. Because the equipment itself seldom fails, nearly all ladder related injuries result from user errors. Please use this article’s guidelines to stay safe.
For photos and guidelines about extension ladder safety, click the View PDF button below.