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Ladder Safety Tips for Do-It-Your-Selfers

When you need a ladder for the job before you, realize that you may get into some pretty dangerous situations.

According to a recent study, there are over 100,000 ladder related injuries every year that are severe enough to require a visit to an emergency room.

So whether it’s a step ladder, or an extension ladder you’ll be using for your job or both, it’s important that you understand how to be safe and protect your self and your surroundings. This report will help you to be prepared for whatever may arise and prevent injuries.

Extension Ladders

Extension ladders come in many sizes, from 16’ to 40’ in 4’ increments. In other words 16’, 20’, 24’, 28’, 32’, 36’ and 40’. Depending upon the type of work you are doing there are optimum lengths for you. For instance, residential window cleaners generally have a 16’ and a 24’ and may bring out for special situations a 32’ or 36’. A painter on the other hand because he is not just working on windows will be best equipped for his work with a 16 or 20’ and a 28’ and occasionally may need a 36 or 40’ ladder. In fact painters often combine all 7 sizes.

For home owner use unless you are very fit and have good technique you probably will not want to have to handle a ladder taller than 24’ or 28’ max.

Before you even think about setting up an extension ladder to reach a second or third story window, you want to be sure you will be safe and stable and feel comfortable up there.


To accomplish this, make sure that you have a stabilizer (or “stand away”) secured to the top of your ladder. A stabilizer will make the top of the ladder more secure and it will also hold it away from the building far enough so that you won’t have to lean backwards.

I created a short youtube video to demonstrate the use of ths piece of equipment because in my opinion it’s essential for ladder work yet few people realize its value. You can view that video here:

Leaning backwards on top of a ladder can be stressful for your lower back. But not only that, it can also undermine your stability on the ladder. Your whole body can become tense just in order to stay up there. If you’re tense while you’re working, you’ll wear yourself out quickly and you will be more susceptible to an accident.

Like-wise, the more tired you are, the more likely you are to make a mistake or have an accident. Little things like this make a world of difference for window cleaners and other professionals because you’re repeating the same actions over and over again. You want to be sure you can stay as relaxed as possible while working. Economy of your bio energy is essential.


Another great way to insure the stability of your ladder is with ladder levelers. These attaché to the feet of the ladder and make it possible to adjust the level of each foot. They provide a great advantage when setting your ladder up on a slope or on a stairway.

On a potentially slippery surface you can turn the feet of your ladder so that they dig into the ground so the feet don’t slip out from under you. If you’re working on a deck which is slightly wet a good trick is to stick a screw driver or 2, a pry bar or another tool between the floor boards just behind the ladder feet to keep it from slipping backwards.

Carrying Your Ladder

Carrying, setting up or taking your ladder down are the times when you can most easily strain your self or lose control and damage your surroundings. So it’s important to know how to perform these actions well and again with minimal strain to your body.

When you carry your ladder, find the middle of it weight-wise so you can effectively balance it with one hand, the ladder resting in the palm of your upturned hand just above your shoulder or rest it upon your shoulder. Keep your back as straight as possible while you walk.

It’s very helpful to know and memorize the middle point of your ladder. This will help you when you pick it up or when you take it down form its position against the building. This way, you can easily move it from leaning against the building to carrying it to another location.

Another way of carrying it (usually for moving it short distances) is vertically. Be aware of any branches or power/phone lines that may be in your path before you pick it up. Use one hand lower (your major weight baring hand) and the other hand up higher to support and keep it balanced and vertical.

If you are going to walk up stairs this way be sure that your body goes first and you carry the ladder up behind you. This is easier on you and also the ladder won’t be obstructed by the steps.

Setting It Up

Setting it up, place the bottom against something stationary and walk it up to the vertical position. Let it slowly come to rest against the house or roof. The bigger the ladder the more useful is this technique.

For smaller ladders it’s possible to go from carrying it to simply planting the foot of it and raising it up against the building.

If you’re working outside and it’s windy, be especially cautious when setting up, carrying or taking your ladder down. Be sure to contract it before moving it.

Using a Step Ladder

The difference between using a step ladder and an extension ladder is significant. When you get on an extension ladder you are usually more aware of the potential danger. Using a step ladder may seem much more safe in general but in fact many more accidents happen on step ladders … or rather from falling off of step ladders. More often than not, the cause is lack of stability.

So to be sure your step ladder is stable, there are a number of things to be aware of. First of all be sure that it is fully opened up so that the hinged piece is fully extended to its straight and locked in position.

Next make sure that the feet are all on the ground or floor in a stable way. If you are opening your ladder outside where the ground may be uneven it may be best to simply leave your step ladder closed and lean it against the building. It will be much more secure this way.

If there’s still an unevenness in the weight distribution between one foot of the ladder and the other you can accommodate this by planting your feet on the side of the ladder which is on the uphill side. Ladder manufacturers may advise against this but in more than 12 years of working with ladders and using this technique I have never had an accident.

The last point to cover in regard to safety on a step ladder is when you come to the top, you will see a note from the manufacturer not to plant your weight on the very top rung. This is very good advice. In general, the higher up you go on your step ladder, the higher your risk of falling or having the entire ladder topple down with you. This is how most serious step ladder injuries occur.

A good guideline to go by is if you are feeling uneasy upon your ladder, come down. As with everything a relaxed alertness is the best space for safety as well as doing an excellent job no matter what you’re doing.

I hope this helps you to stay safe and avoid injuries on your job. It’s actually very simple to do if you follow this short guide.

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New Morning, Inc., former Eyes of Shiva, delivers Professional Painting Works, Home & Office Cleaning, Window & Gutter Cleaning, and Power Washing to the Boulder, Lyons, Longmont, Erie, Loveland, Fort Collins, Broomfield, Lafayette, Louisville, Westminster, Thornton, Superior, Arvada, Golden, Denver, Lakewood, Centennial, and Colorado Springs areas since 2009. We approach every house as a temple and every project with an open heart, childlike enthusiasm and give great care and attention to every detail of our work.

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