Ladder Safety from ITA

Ladder Safety[RIGHT]August 2006
Issue # 52

This month I would like to discuss ladder safety. As inspectors we use a ladder daily, mainly for roof and attic access. Because of this daily use we can become so accustomed to using the ladder and heights that we tend to ignore basic safety when using the ladder and when walking around on roofs.
I check my ladder several times a year. I use a “Little Giant”]( type ladder and find the connections need to be tightened occasionally. Additionally, I like to use some silicone spray in the pivots at the center of the ladder. I recommend checking yours sooner rather than later.
When placing the ladder be sure it is on a level surface (if not level use factory made leg levelers, not debris at the site) and that it is parallel to the wall surface. Do not place your ladder in front of a garage, exit door, or window. I like to place my ladder near a gutter spike if the house is so equipped. Often I bring a flexible cord with me to strap the ladder to the spike to prevent blow-over.
Be sure your ladder has sufficient angle. About one-foot away from the building at the base per four feet of height is a good guideline. A fireman once told me “about an arm’s length from the building while standing is good” as another rule of thumb. The ladder should extend about three-feet above the surface you are accessing so you have something to hold onto when mounting and dismounting the roof.
As I climb the ladder I look at the roof to see if there are any hazards. Before mounting the roof I rub my foot on it to gauge the coefficient of friction (see if it is slippery) so I know what I will feel once on the roof. If there are any perceived hazards I will inspect from the ladder only. Once on the roof watch where you are going. NEVER walk backwards, always face the direction of travel.
Once I complete my inspection I take the ladder away from the roof and lay it on the ground out of the way. I once left my ladder in the “A” configuration in front of the house only to find several children on it when I returned to the ladder.
These are only a few tips on ladder usage. For more information on inspector safety, check out our Safety Continuing Education Correspondence Course]( or attend my three-hour safety session at ITA’s Inspection Expo]( in Las Vegas this September.
We’ll talk next month,
Mike Casey
Kaplan Professional Schools
Inspection Training Associates
Now You’re Ready For Business!™

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A little clarification on the arms length away from the building. The ratio is one foot per four foot of elevation. Example if the roof is twenty feet high the ladder base should be about 5 feet from the building. The “arms length” reference is to check for angle of the ladder. After raising the ladder to desired height and moving to desired angle, check the angle by stepping on the first rung of the ladder, put your arms straight out and the hands should be able to grab the rung directly in front of them. If not adjust the ladder so your hands do come in contact with the rung. Climb the ladder with three points of contact: one hand-two feet or two hands-one foot.

Excellent points on checking the roof for cohesiveness. One might also want to pound on the roof with hand or foot to check to see if the roof is strong enough to walk on. If the roof is really spongy when walking on, prepare to get off that roof. It is not structurally sound and may not support the weight. If you can, don’t walk within three feet of the edges once off the ladder. This keeps you from the edge and yet still able to see gutters, debris, bad spots on the edge of the roof.

I spent almost 25 years as a career firefighter, retiring as rank of Captain, and of those years more than half were on a ladder truck. Ladder safety is first and foremost when it comes to climbing, dismounting and getting back on the ladder. Falling off a roof is no fun, I know. But then again so do many carpenters, roofers, and such.

little Giant recommends the lubrication for their ladders is End Dust ( yes the stuff mom uses on her furniture ).
I have tried it and it does a good job.
Not a lover of silicone spray as it gathers dust gets sticky.

Roy Cooke sr.

You think the ITA guys might mention that metal ladders conduct electricty.

Before you raise any ladder, always look up for obstsacles such as wires, like Brian mentioned, limbs, etc. If those things are in the way, take your ladder to a different place and raise. Good point Brian!