The Ladder Angle Rule

The Ladder Angle Rule

There are several hard and fast ladder angle rule in place for those who work in the contracting field and those who enjoy working on their homes. Many of these cautionary policies resonate in the brains of individuals who like to use power tools, heavy equipment like lawnmowers, and chemicals like paint and bleach. They include such warnings as:

  • Never use a circular saw without wearing safety goggles.
  • Open doors and windows for ventilation when you are painting
  • Check plug-ins in your shop to be sure if they are 220 voltage or 110 voltage.
  • Wear gloves when you are working with grout or cement.
  • Wear a mask when you are spray painting.

But no building policies are more important than those that cover how to avoid potential danger on a ladder. Here are a few examples of industries where the most accidents occur when using a ladder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • construction
  • extraction (mining)
  • installation
  • maintenance
  • repairs

The most common injury resulting from a fall was head injury followed by upper and lower extremity trauma. But, ladder injuries and fatalities are preventable. Some suggestions from the CDC are as follows:

  • Reduce how often you use a ladder and find more creative ways to accomplish the job at hand.
  • Ensure that all ladders used are safety inspected and are the correct ladder for the job.
  • Train yourself and others on ladder safety rules.
  • Use scaffolding or lifts instead of ladders.

A simple rule that is easy to remember is the 4-to-1 rule. This principle is about the angle you use when you set up your ladder for a job. By angling your ladder correctly, you can avoid disaster in most cases. The rule goes something like this:

“For every four feet of height you are climbing, place the base of your ladder one foot away from the wall.”

This Old House, the television show for do-it-yourselfers and home improvement novices, is the source of this tip. OSHA (the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration) also has some safety tips where ladders are concerned. They include:

  • All those manuals and stickers on your ladder that explain more about it are included to protect you.
  • Make sure you avoid leaning your ladder against a power line.
  • Take a good, long look at your ladder to be sure it is in good shape before you climb it.
  • Maintain a 3-point connection to the ladder as you climb. (two hands and one foot)
  • Never use the top rung of a ladder as a step. Ladders are not balanced in a way to support that position.
  • Do not shift the position of a ladder on which there is a person.
  • Once a ladder is in position for a job do not move it unless you are the person who has placed it there.
  • Never exceed the recommended maximum weight set on the ladder by the manufacturer.

It goes without saying that purchasing a ladder that is safe is one of the most important steps in ensuring that your project has a happy ending. Here are a few of the safest ladders on the market:

  1. The Dark Horse 17' Multi-Position Ladder is expensive, but this ladder is the grandfather of all reliable ladders. It has a load capacity of 300 pounds and a 1A Duty Rating. It is the wide-flared base that gives it extra stability and its versatility is astounding and its wide rungs that reduce foot pain and tiredness. The Little Giant Dark Horse has more lateral security than other step and extension ladders. And although it is durable and well-made, it is also lightweight enough for easy carrying. The ladders configurations include A-frame, 90-degree, extension.
  2. Werner has a version of this ladder, as well. It is the 17' Aluminum Telescoping Multi-Ladder. It also has a 300-pound capacity and is significantly less expensive than others in this category. The Werner takes the form of a twin step-ladder, a stairway step-ladder, an extension ladder, and two scaffold bases. It has a wide-flared bottom for extra support and is designed for ease of storage as well as transport. The Werner is OSHA compliant and is approved by the American National Standards Institute. The heights of the various iterations are stepladder 4' to 7', extension ladder 9' to 15', stairway ladder 4' to 7', scaffold 2', 11". Werner claims it is the #1 brand in professional climbing equipment.
  3. At 8', the Cosco Signature Series Aluminum Step Ladder is every home improvement fanatic's dream come true. This ladder is tall enough to reach ceilings and top molding, but its wide base offers the stability of a smaller step-ladder. The fact that it is foldable by one hand is something every handyman or woman will applaud and the project trays are the clincher. This ladder has two project trays which are indispensable when painting, storing paper towels for spills, or needing your hand drill while you are up there. The treads are slip-resistant and this dream of a ladder has a carrying handle with a security lock. For convenience and versatility, this ladder gets an A+.
  4. The American Ladder Institute, yes, there is such an organization, adds a few more tips to go along with our 4-to-1 policy. They say if you feel dizzy or off balance, you should stay away from ladders until you get your sea legs back. They add that ladder should not be used when there are high winds or during storms. Wear clean and slip-resistant shoes when climbing a ladder and stay away from leather-soled shoes. Although it may seem obvious to most, the ALI reminds everyone to not allow more than one person on the ladder at a time. Also, when using a ladder make sure it is not set up in front of a door that might be opened. Block, lock, or guard the door if the ladder is positioned in front of it. And keep your body centered when on a ladder so that you maintain your balance.

Even experienced contractors make mistakes at times, and workers on large construction jobs often make errors that can cause injury. Be sure to follow the ladder angle rules of safety no matter how large or small your project.

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