By Catherine Breault
PIO, Woodinville Fire & Rescue
Spring is just around the corner, which means organizing the garage and cleaning those gutters. It’s important to think about safety as we climb up our ladders to stash away our winter items and clean up from the leaves and rain. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 500,000 people per year are treated, and more than 300 people die from ladder-related injuries in the United States.
One of the easiest ways to injure yourself around the home is by using a ladder improperly. Before you climb up there, take some time to learn how to use and inspect a ladder. A 16-year study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that 97 percent of ladder accidents happened at home.
There are a few things you should look for when inspecting your ladder. Always look for missing or unsecured steps or rungs, damaged rails, or loose bolts. Particularly in our region, you also want to look for rot, decay, corrosion, or rust on a ladder. Looking over your ladder before you use it can help prevent any mishaps once you start using it.
An extension ladder provides the easiest, most convenient way to reach high areas around your home, but greater heights create greater chances for more serious injury. When using an extension ladder, follow these tips:
1. No leaning. Keep your hips centered between the side rails. Leaning sideways is crazy-dangerous.
2. Avoid the shakes. Make sure you position your ladder on dry, level ground. If you are working at the roofline (gutters), extend the ladder several feet above the point of contact. Secure the locks.
3. Angle carefully. Measure one-fourth of the ladder’s length. That’s how far the ladder’s base should be from the wall.
4. Wear appropriate shoes. They should have nonslip soles that are relatively rigid.
5. Stop short. No matter how tempting, don’t step on the top three rungs.
With these inspection and safety tips, you are off to a good start. Consider hiring a licensed and bonded contractor if you are unsure of your ability to do the job needed. Always research your specific brand and type of ladder before use. Remember no project is so important that it warrants the use of a ladder improperly.