Almost 1 out of 4 Americans are afraid of heights. If you’re in this group, it’s unlikely you’ll feel a need to climb a ladder this fall. But for the rest of us fearless climbers, we’ve got lots to do! From cleaning our gutters, to hanging up festive lights and decorations, pruning trees, and touching up the paint on our homes, it’s the time of year to either get up there ourselves or call a professional.
A note on gutters: clean these before all the leaves fall (while they’re still dry and easy to remove), as well as once in the spring. Wet leaves are grounds for mold growth, can clog your gutter, and may also serve as a cozy home for birds and other critters. If water is unable to flow through the gutter it can freeze in winter causing damage that would necessitate repair or even gutter replacement.
And on pruning: if you have dead trees or weakened limbs that could be hazards during winter storms, now is the time to prune them. This year’s drought throughout Massachusetts prevented the recovery of many trees’ foligage that were eaten up by caterpillars.
Making sure you’re safe on a ladder is no joke. In 2010 there were over 164,000 ladder-related injuries treated in emergency rooms according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A moment of not paying attention or moving too quickly could result in severe injury. Poor ladder condition, inappropriate footwear, and a climber’s age or physical condition have all contributed to falls. Here are some tips for staying safe that you might have known and some you might have not:
- Know the maximum load rating of your ladder and make sure your weight + the weight of materials does not exceed this.
- Inspect your ladder before use to ensure it’s in good condition. Don’t take a chance on ladders with loose or missing parts or leaning ladders.
- Both your shoes and the ladder’s steps should have slip-resistant feet. Hint: leather soles are NOT slip-resistant.
- When to stay off the ladder: you feel tired or dizzy, you tend to lose your balance, it’s windy or rainy out!
- Ladders that must be leaned against a building or tree are known as single, straight, or extension ladders. The top 3 rungs of these ladders are not safe for standing. Ensure your ladder extends 3 feet over the roof line so you don’t have to climb too high and you’ve got the proper ladder length.
- When leaning these ladders against the building, ensure you have a 75 degree angle.To ensure you have the proper angle, position the ladder base to about a fourth the length of the ladder from the wall. Also, make sure you’re placing the ladder on firm and level ground and don’t block a door unless you’re sure it’s locked or guarded.
- All locks on extension ladders must be properly secured.
- If you’re using a metal ladder, be sure there are no powerlines or other electrical equipment around you!
- Best to have a buddy! They can hold the ladder at the base while you’re climbing and working and call in case of an emergency. If you’re alone, put a phone in your pocket, but please resist the urge to check your text messages.
- Keep your body centered between the rails of the ladder both when climbing and when working. Always face the ladder and do not lean too far to the side while working.
- It may be obvious, but please climb slowly and deliberately and avoid sudden movements.
- Keep both feet and one hand in contact with the ladder when climbing. Remember, 3 points of contact!
And finally, never leave a raised ladder unattended. Even if you’re not at risk of falling, a ladder falling by itself or with equipment on top can still cause a lot of damage and injury.
– Adapted from UMass Amhest’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment report on pruning and ladder safety