Thanksgiving 2012 is past and it's time to trim the home with Christmas decorations.
Thanksgiving 2012 is past and it's time to trim the home with Christmas decorations. Having already hung my lights during a warmer weekend, I couldn't help but notice some of my fellow holiday enthusiasts trying to take advantage of the three- to four-day weekend to complete their decorations.
What I observed was their lack of basic safety issues when using either an extension ladder or a stepladder. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 165,000 Americans require medical treatment for ladder-related injuries each year. Based on a 1990–2005 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that number is escalating.
During the study, the number of reported cases in which Americans were hurt in incidents involving ladders climbed by more than 50 percent. That equated to more than 2.1 million individuals being treated in U.S. emergency departments for ladder-related injuries.
To keep your holidays safe, here are some tips from the American Ladder Institute, www.laddersafety.org/basicladdersafety.aspx:
If you feel tired or dizzy or are prone to losing your balance, stay off the ladder.
Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.
Wear clean slip-resistant shoes. Shoes with leather soles are not appropriate for ladder use because they are not considered sufficiently slip-resistant.
Before using a ladder, inspect it to confirm that it is in good working condition.
Ladders with loose or missing parts must be rejected.
Rickety ladders that sway or lean to the side must be rejected.
The ladder you select must be the right size for the job.
The duty rating of the ladder must be greater than the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies and other objects placed upon the ladder.
The length of the ladder must be sufficient so that the climber does not have to stand on the top rung or step.
When the ladder is set up for use, it must be placed on firm, level ground and without any type of slippery condition present at either the base or top support points.
Only one person at a time is permitted on a ladder unless the ladder is specifically designed for more than one climber (such as a trestle ladder).
Ladders must not be placed in front of closed doors that can open toward the ladder. The door must be blocked open, locked or guarded.
Read the safety information labels on the ladder. The on-product safety information is specific to the particular type of ladder on which it appears. The climber is not considered qualified or adequately trained to use the ladder until familiar with this information.
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Never jump or slide down from a ladder or climb more than one rung/step at a time.
When climbing a ladder, it is safest to use three points of contact because it minimizes the chances of slipping and falling from the ladder. At all times during ascent or descent, the climber must face the ladder and have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in contact with the ladder cleats and/or side rails. In this way, the climber is not likely to become unstable in the event one limb slips during the climb.
The climber must not carry any objects in either hand that can interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. Otherwise, three points of contact with the ladder cannot be maintained adequately and the chance of falling is increased in the event a hand or foot slip occurs.
Factors contributing to falls from ladders include haste, sudden movement, lack of attention, the condition of the ladder (worn or damaged), the user's age or physical condition, or both, and the user's footwear. Although the user's weight or size typically does not increase the likelihood of a fall, improper climbing posture creates user clumsiness and may cause falls.
To reduce your chances of falling during the climb:
Wear slip-resistant shoes with heels and heavy soles to prevent foot fatigue.
Clean shoe soles to maximize traction.
Use towlines, a tool belt or an assistant to convey materials so that the climber's hands are free when climbing.
Climb slowly and deliberately while avoiding sudden movements.
Keep the center of your belt buckle (stomach) between the ladder side rails (or within the width of the cleats) when climbing and while working.
Do not overreach or lean while working so that you don't fall off the ladder sideways.
Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.