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 Kaplan’s Inspection Expo in Las Vegas this September.
We'll talk next month,
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