Arguably one of the most common fixtures on any jobsite, the step ladder certainly gets a lot of use. It’s also the cause of a lot of injuries; injuries that could have been avoided. The problem is that most of us think that we know how to use a step ladder. The other problem is that, because we are so close to the ground when using a step ladder, we tend to ignore some basic safety rules, often times at the expense of a sprained ankle or some other type of injury.
Follow these basic safety tips to avoid being one of the injured ones.
- Always inspect the step ladder before you use it. This includes any time someone else has used it. You know when a hammer fell and might have damaged the spreader arm if you are the one using the ladder but what about when someone else has been using it? They themselves may not realize that something that they did has compromised the safety of the ladder. A visual inspection will show you if there is damage to the ladder. Any time that the ladder has been out of your sight for any length of time you need to inspect it before you use it. Don’t assume that the ladder didn’t get used by someone else while you were eating lunch, for example. Always check it over before you climb.
- Make sure that the spreader arms are firmly locked in place before you use the ladder. The spreader arms keep the four feet in direct contact with the ground, providing a stable base. Do not use the ladder as a straight ladder (on two feet instead of four). It wasn’t designed to be used that way. If you need a straight ladder, get one.
- Never climb higher than the second step from the top; any higher and the stability of the ladder is greatly compromised.
- Never lean over to one side or the other. Additionally do not lean forward or backward. A step ladder is designed for the center of gravity to be firmly in the middle of the four legs, any time that center of gravity changes, the ladder can topple over.
- In keeping with what we just stated about the center of gravity, keep both feet on the step ladder when in use. Do not span between something else and the state ladder (one foot on something else and one foot on the step).
- Make sure that all four legs of the ladder are firm and stable. A wobbly ladder is a dangerous ladder.
Step ladders are designed to make our jobs easier and safer. If they are not used correctly, however, they can become a hazard instead. Following these tips will help you get the job done better, quickly and safely.