The proper use of extension ladders | Pro Construction Guide

The proper use of extension ladders

The proper use of extension ladders

 First lay the fully retracted ladder flat on the ground with the bottom of the ladder blocked against the building and the base section on top.

Select the right extension ladder for the job. When it comes to the proper use of extension ladders, you should know that not using the right length ladder can put a worker into a situation where he has to overreach to do the work. To calculate the right length for the job, remember that extension ladders consists of two overlapping sections, so a 16-foot ladder has a maximum reach of 15 feet. Plus, you should never stand on the top three rungs of an extension ladder. The angle an extension ladder rests in also reduces its height.

Starting at the top of the ladder, lift the end over your head

Starting at the top of the ladder, lift the end over your head and walk under the ladder toward the wall, moving your hands from rung to rung.

Extension ladders are designed to support a specific weight and level of usage. Find the duty rating displayed on the color-coded label on the ladder side rail. Type IAA, IA and I are the only acceptable ladders on a construction job site.

To work near electricity, always use a fiberglass ladder with non-conductive side rails. Metal ladders and wood ladders with metal reinforcement can conduct electricity.

Prepare before you climb

Before you climb, check aluminum ladders for sharp edges; dents; bent steps, feet or rails; loose rivets; and corrosion. On fiberglass ladders, watch for cracks, chips and missing components. Check the lanyard for wear and fraying. Inspect the rungs, steps and foot friction pads for wear, missing parts or slippery substances. OSHA requires that defective ladders be immediately marked as defective and withdrawn from use until they have been repaired.

proper use of extension ladders

While the ladder is nearly vertical, raise the fly section of the ladder to the correct height by pulling on the rope. Raise the ladder 3 or 4 feet higher than where you need to stand to work. Once the ladder is the correct height, move the base of the ladder away from the building until it is resting at a 75° angle. The base should be 1/4 the length of the ladder from the base to its point of support.

Observe the location of overhead wires, if any. Be sure the distance to the nearest overhead line is twice the length of the ladder. Never work on a windy day or climb extension ladders during rain or if there’s a chance of lightening. If you need to position a ladder in front of a door (or any location where it could be bumped and dislodged), lock or blockade the door, or assign someone to be sure the ladder is not bumped.

The ground underneath the ladder should be level and firm. On soft or uneven ground, use large flat wooden boards under the ladder as a level.

Wear non-skid footwear and dry your shoes before climbing. Carry tools in a tool belt or tool bag attached to your belt, or raise and lower them using a rope.

Climb extension ladders carefully

Take your time when you climb. Face the ladder and three points of contact (two hands and a foot, one hand and two feet) when climbing. The most common construction accidents are caused by overreaching.

Keep your body within the rails of the ladder, centering your weight between the rails at all times. Work facing the ladder, holding on with one hand. If it is ever necessary to work with both hands, hook one leg over a ladder rung.

Never stand higher than the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder. Doing so can cause the ladder to be top heavy and kick-out. Don’t move, shift or extend the ladder while in use. Never sit on the ladder or leave a ladder unattended.

—By J. Costin

Match the ladder to the job

Job classifications Type Max
Professional work (commercial painter, maintenance, etc.). 3 200 pounds
Commercial work (industrial applications) 2 225 pounds
Industrial employment (industrial applications) 1 250 pounds
Special works (commercial / industrial high impact) 1A 300 pounds
Special works (commercial / industrial high impact) 1AA 375 pounds

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