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Health library

Step up your ladder safety

As spring arrives, many homeowners set out to clean gutters, wash windows, prune trees and tackle a host of other chores. And many of these projects will require a ladder.

But before you step up, brush up on safety. If you're not careful, ladder accidents can leave you with cuts, bruises, broken bones or worse. Avoid that by following these tips from the National Safety Council, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and other experts.

Wear the right shoes. Sneakers or boots with laces are best. Avoid flip-flops, sandals or leather-soled shoes—they can be slippery.

Choose the right tool. Don't stand on a chair or on your tiptoes. With tall stepladders, stay at least two steps down from the top. When using a single or an extension ladder, don't go higher than the third rung from the top.

Find stable, even ground. Then do a safety check. Be sure the steps or rungs aren't slippery with grease or mud, and check that the screws are tight and that nothing is damaged or bent.

Space it out. Place ladders 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet of ladder. For example, the base of a 16-foot ladder should be 4 feet away from the wall. If you're going to the roof, the ladder should extend at least 3 feet beyond it.

Once you're ready to climb:

  • Stay in the middle of the rails and hold on while climbing.
  • Don't lean too far to the side—try to keep your belly button between the sides of the ladder. If you can't reach what you need, get off the ladder and move it.
  • Try to keep three points of contact with the ladder, such as two feet and one hand.

If you feel faint or you've taken a medication that makes you dizzy or tired, don't get on a ladder.

Ladders and spring hazards

Springtime is known for thunderstorms and tornadoes in some parts of the country. If there is the potential for high winds or lightning strikes, save the project for another day. If the weather changes once you're on the ladder, climb down and wait for it to clear.

Reviewed 11/22/2023

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