Whether cleaning gutters or hanging a photo just out of arm’s reach, ladders are a necessity for home improvement. For projects large and small, ladders provide the extra height needed to complete a variety of tasks. However, when climbing a ladder, use caution to avoid accidents and electrical injuries.
March is National Ladder Safety Month, which serves as a reminder to use ladders with care. Ladders are widely used — from professionals trimming trees or repairing roofs to homeowners painting or cleaning gutters.
In fact, ladders are such commonplace tools that we may not give them a second thought before use. Whether you are a contractor who uses a ladder regularly as part of your job or a DIYer completing a weekend home improvement project, it is important to always think about safety first.
Accidents involving ladders rank among the top 10 causes of injury cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Although falls are most common, increased height can also increase the risk of electrical accidents, injuries and death.
Ladders put homeowners and workers closer to important tasks, but they can also put people closer to overhead power lines. Many of these power lines carry 7,200 volts of electricity. To put that in perspective, the 120 volts of electricity in your home can be fatal. Overhead lines carry 60 times that.
It is a commonly held myth that all power lines are insulated, but that is not true. Any coating on lines is for weather proofing and will not offer protection from the electrical current. It is never safe to touch a power line.
According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission report, ladders are involved in more electrocutions than any other product. Overhead power lines are responsible for more fatal electrical accidents at work than any other type of electrical accident. Fortunately, contact with overhead power lines can be avoided with the proper precautions.
The risk power lines pose to those working with ladders is completely manageable. It is important to remember to look out for power lines and take the right precautions every time you work with a ladder.
Always look up and look out for power lines before starting your project. Once you are aware of their location, be sure to keep yourself and the ladder at least 10 feet away from power lines in all directions, at all times.
Make sure you are using the correct size ladder for the job, especially when completing tasks outside the home. Always carry ladders horizontally, making sure the area above the ladder is clear before placing it upright. Make sure your ladder is on a solid, level surface before attempting to climb.
Take time to remain stable on the ladder and avoid sudden movements. Never climb a ladder if you are dizzy or tired. To avoid falls, keep at least three points of contact with the ladder. Keep your body in the middle of the ladder and face inward when climbing.
Follow safety guidelines whether you use an aluminum, wood or fiberglass ladder. Although some materials are better conductors than others, all ladders require the same precautions. No ladder is safe around electricity.
Work only when weather permits, and inspect your ladder before and after use to make sure there is no damage that could put yourself or other users in danger.
For homeowners, if your task puts you near power lines (such as trimming trees), it is better to hire professionals. Please help prevent a tragedy and put safety first. Take precautions each and every time a ladder is being used. For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.