In general, we always recommend that homeowners avoid going up on ladders to the roof of their home. Leave it to the professionals! However, we understand that sometimes there are circumstances in which some homeowners may choose not to bring in a professional right away but want to use a ladder to get to their roof anyway.
Ladders can bring you to great heights, but if you don’t use them safely, they can drop you back to the ground faster than you can imagine. More than a half-a-million Americans are injured from unsafe use of ladders every year, and the vast majority of those accidents happen at home in the fall. So, even though we urge you to avoid using a ladder at all, you may still want to… therefore, before you climb a ladder to fix or inspect the roof, clean the gutters or put up your Christmas lights, let’s review some important ladder safety tips.
- Inspect your ladder before using it. Be sure the rungs are securely attached and check to make sure the feet haven’t been damaged and have plenty of grip. It’s not worth the risk of using a damaged ladder.
- When using an extension or straight ladder, make sure that the tops of both rails make firm contact with the wall and that both feet are securely gripping the ground.
- Angle your ladder to the wall, following the four-to-one rule: For every four feet of height you have to climb, move the base one foot away from the wall.
- Always wear running shoes or some kind rubber-soled shoes or work boots for climbing a ladder. Do not wear flip-flops or smooth-soled shoes.
- When climbing, always maintain three points of contact with the ladder: two hands and one foot OR two feet and one hand. To start climbing, put two hands on a rung above your shoulders and then step up onto the first rung. Maintain three points of contact as you climb until you reach a stable platform or return to the ground.
- Stay centered on the rungs while climbing, keeping your hips in between the rails for good balance.
- Do not climb a ladder in windy or wet weather. Never climb an aluminum ladder if it is wet—that is extremely dangerous.
- Be sure to check your ladder’s safety label. You can find it on the outside of one of the side rails. It will give you details about the ladder’s maximum height, maximum weight and other important safety information. When considering the maximum weight include your body weight and the weight of tools you’re carrying (on a work belt, preferably) and accessories attached to the ladder.
- If you’re on a step ladder, do not ignore the warning: “THIS IS NOT A STEP.” You should never step on the very top of a step ladder. Nor should you ever step on the paint can shelf of the step ladder. In fact, generally, you should never climb higher than the third-highest rung of a step ladder.
Finally, if you do not have the proper ladder to do the job (roof repair, gutter repair or cleaning), this is a good reason to call a roofer or handyman from your local home services company to do the job for you. Professionals will use the right kind of ladder or scaffolding to do the work safely.
No matter what, please be safe with ladders if you choose to use one.