Ladders Boston MA
Jamaica Plain, MA
Custom Builder, Designer / Architect, Remodeler, Specialty Contractor
2009 CotY Awards, Build It Green, Eastern Massachusetts Chaper of NARI, NARI Certified Remodeler, NARI Green Certified Professional (GCP), National Association of the Remodeling Industry
Making Time for Safety
Most ladder safety is pretty obvious. Few homeowners need to be told to always erect a ladder perpendicular to the roof line, keep the ladder's base on firm ground, and always climb facing the ladder. But there are some not-so-obvious safety considerations. Belt-Buckle Rule - Reaching out to the side is one of the most perilous positions you can assume on a ladder. Essentially, you're shifting your center of gravity, and the ladder's tendency to stay vertical, away from the foot supports.
Of course, you have to reach out somewhat to keep yourself from having to move the ladder every two seconds. So the rule of thumb is: If you stretch to the left or right and your belt buckle goes past the edge of the ladder, you've gone too far. Pulley Protection - Carrying something heavier or more awkward than a one-gallon paint bucket up a ladder is also asking for trouble. A half-dozen 2x4s, a chimney block, or a bundle of asphalt shingles all have the potential to shift your center of gravity and make you topple off a ladder. These items are best raised up to the work area via a rope and pulley.
Always make sure the pulley is placed above you to make it easier to swing the load onto the staging, platform or other work surface. 75.5 or Bust - Manufacturers long ago figured out that the absolute optimum angle for working on a ladder is 75.5° from the horizontal. Without getting out your protractor to measure, that works out to ladder-foot placement of approximately 4 feet out for every 12 feet up. Most extension ladders have a graphic on the rails to help you achieve the proper alignment. An alignment too steep may end with you falling backward, while an alignment not steep enough may make it uncomfortable to stand on the rungs, which are designed to be used at the 75° angle.
A ladder at too shallow an angle can also slide right out from under you. Dopey Things I've Done and Seen In my misspent youth, I frequently used a closed stepladder leaned up against a wall. It seemed like an ideal approach for gaining a little altitude quickly and easily - until the day came when one slid out from under me. Stepladder legs are designed to be used only when the device is in the open position and offer too little support when used in the closed position. My young nephew used to enjoy helping me work while I was busy on my 12-foot stepladder. He'd often race up the back side of the ladder to hand me an extra scraper, paintbrush or whatever. This arrangement lasted until the day he lurched in an unexpected way, shifting the whole ladder underneath me and sending paint spattering down the wall.
Although some specialty stepladders are indeed designed for two, most stepladders should only have one at a time on them. Carrying two gallons of paint - one in each hand - used to seem like a good way to get everything aloft at once. But one day, a greenhead fly landed on my shoulder while I was doing this. He took a nasty bite out of me before I could shift a gallon out of one hand and swat the little devil. He got away, but I no longer carry more than one gallon in a hand. You've Gotta Be Kidding Having worked around job sites for years, I thought I'd seen every foolish safety violation in the book - until I witnessed ladder jumping. A young man I hired was at the top of an extension ladder and coul
d not quite reach as far to the right as he wanted to.
So he abruptly hurled his upper body backward and jerked the top of the ladder away from the wall, while at the same time, using his shifting body mass to move the ladder a bit to the right. He said he did it to save time, but I promised to pay him the same hourly rate if he'd come down the ladder and move it like a professional painter would. Frequently, I've also had to stop workers from setting up a ladder atop staging or sawhorses.
Ditto for workers who try to solve the uneven ground problem with stacks of wood blocks. Daring souls who like to stand on the top of a stepladder also get my brief sermon about broken necks.
And people who like to use a horizontal ladder as temporary staging get my lecture about Russian roulette. And although this was mentioned in the main story, ALWAYS be aware of electrical wires and NEVER allow your ladder to come in contact with them. This point is so important it cannot be emphasized enough. For anyone with more questions about proper ladder safety, go to the website www.ladder-safety.com. It's an excellent resource. Also, if you're about to buy a ladder, the manufacturer and/or retailer will provide you with a wealth of safety information and, usually, an 800 telephone number for further questions about safety.