Every year, about 65,000 people are injured while using a ladder, and 300 people lose their lives.
Sorry, we had to start on a sad note, but it was to get as much attention as possible to the basic safety guidelines.
The first one is the choice of a ladder and the understanding of its weight ratings.
A ladder is one of the most necessary and easy-to-use tools at home. But it can also become dangerous if used improperly.
A lot of people don’t really care about weight capacity and other technicalities when it comes to buying a new ladder. But in reality, this is of utmost importance.
Duty or Weight Rating of a Ladder
In total, there are 5 categories the duty or weight ratings of ladders are divided into:
- Type IAA
A professional type, such ladders are used for special duties and can carry 375 pounds.
- Type IA
These are the heaviest duty ladders with a rating of 300 pounds. They are usually helpful for hard industrial work, where you need to carry a lot of tools with you while climbing the ladder.
- Type I
These have a limit of 250 pounds and are used in regular heavy-duty situations. They are for industrial use and shouldn’t be used at home, usually.
- Type II
These have a weight capacity of 225 pounds. They are officially approved for medium-duty uses. The most frequent use of such ladders is commercial.
- Type III
With a duty rating of 200 pounds, such ladders are approved for light-duty use. They are most often used for household work when you don’t need a lot of tools.
Always understand that the rating implies the whole load weight that you will apply to it, including another person or a bag of those Christmas lights.
Ladder Choice Tips for Safe Use
First of all, remember that you should never exceed the weight capacity of your ladder. It isn’t wise to imply that the rating is measured with a safety pocket. If it’s a type III ladder, never exceed the 200-pound limit.
Here are other important recommendations:
- For tools and materials, use a towline instead of carrying them with you;
- Don’t think that longer ladders have a higher weight capacity. These two factors are not correlated in any way;
- Always check the duty rating of the ladder you’re about to use. There should be a sticker on the side, and if it’s missing, find the user manual (if you’re working at home) or talk to your supervisor (if you’re working on a construction site).
If buying a ladder for home, there are recommendations on the choice that will keep you and the tool safe at all time:
- Make sure you buy a proper ladder
Every type of ladder is manufactured for a specific purpose. If you’re using an extension ladder for the work that should be done on a regular step ladder, you may get in trouble;
- Evaluate the ground where you’ll install the ladder
See if there’s a source of electricity nearby, if the surface is flat or uneven, if there are lots of people around, how much weight you’ll be carrying, etc.;
- Consider the weight of the ladder
As to the materials, wooden ladders weigh the most; then there’s fiberglass with medium weight and aluminum as the lightest option. Be attentive when choosing the type of ladder according to its material.
Get Familiar with Your Ladders
There are lots of types when it comes to portable ladders. You may need to use a self-supporting one, a trestle ladder, a straight or extension ladder, etc. There are also models manufactured for a specific duty and should only be used for it.
If you’re working at a construction site, chances are all these types are present there. That’s why it’s very important to get familiar with every type and its uses so that you can choose a proper model for your job.
The Length of a Ladder
A little bonus section for you.
Here are some reference points:
- If you have to stand on the very top step or the 3rd rung (if using an extension ladder), it’s not tall enough;
- If the ceiling in the room is less than the height of the tool, it’s too long and isn’t appropriate for the job;
- Refer to the stickers on the ladder to see its exact standing level.
Safety Precautions to Minimize Danger
Here are additional recommendations you must use along with the proper determination of the needed duty rating for the ladder.
- Never set up a ladder if the surface below is uneven. All the feet have to stand strong and still on the ground;
- If using a stepladder, make sure the metal braces (spreaders) are straight, and the ladder is locked in position;
- Do not step or sit down on the top step. Moreover, a lot of ladder manufacturing companies highly recommend always standing below the third step from the top;
- Never climb the back of the ladder;
- Unless using a special model designed for two people, don’t allow anyone to go up while you’re up;
- Don’t reach too far to the right, left, or back; otherwise the ladder may become unstable, and you can fall down;
- Don’t lean a stepladder and climb it; only use in the proper way;
- Make sure there are no tools on the ladder when you’re moving it; something may fall off and hurt you;
- Don’t stand on the paint shelf; it’s too fragile for that;
- Keep children and pets out of the place where you store or use a ladder. If going for a break, close the room or take the ladder away and set it up again after the break.
An extension ladder can become your best friend at home, especially if it has several floors. But remember that the higher the ladder, the more danger there is, and the more careful you have to be when using it.
These easy recommendations will help you a lot:
- Again, check the duty rating!
- When installing the ladder, use a proper base angle. The 1 to 4 ratio works best for it: one-fourth of the height is the distance from the wall to the legs;
- Install it carefully: first, lay it down with legs against the wall; walk it step by step until it’s almost 100% vertical; take one of the rungs and lift the ladder a little bit; install the legs at a proper distance from the house (you can walk in small step with it);
- Before going up the ladder, make sure it’s stable and all the locks and hooks are securely locked in. It’s better to check twice than to call an emergency later;
- Make sure both legs are standing strong on the ground. If one isn’t, don’t put something beneath. Instead, try to balance the other foot by digging a small hole;
- Stay away from the third top rung and higher;
- Don’t use an extension ladder when it’s snowy, muddy, or rainy;
- Steer clear from electrical power sources, especially if the ladder is made from aluminum; metal is a wonderful electricity conductor;
- Keep your hands free. You can use a tool belt for it; remember to include the weight of your tools;
- If you need to get on the roof, ensure that there are at least 3 feet of ladder available over the top.
There are a lot of details in choosing a proper ladder for the job. And its weight capacity is one of the most important factors in the choice.
How much can a ladder really hold? As much as its duty rating states. Find the sticker, check how heavy you will be with all the tools and materials.
Choose wisely, install carefully, and don’t assume that using the ladder improperly once won’t pay off. Thousands of people get injuries from the improper use of their tools.