Whether you’re a homeowner working on a renovation project or you’re a home builder or contractor, you’re likely to use a ladder to complete specific tasks. And often, one ladder may not be enough to reach a very high area you’re working on. This is the time you use an extension ladder to extend your reach. Anyone working with this type of ladder needs to learn how to use an extension ladder safely.
An extension ladder is a very common portable ladder used by contractors, linesmen, cable TV installers, and firefighters. These ladders are non-self-supporting, mobile, and adjustable. It is an essential piece of equipment that should be regarded with care. Anyone who needs to use this kind of ladder should undergo strict training to ensure safety and efficiency in their line of work.
How to Use an Extension Ladder Safely – Step by Step Instructions
Using an extension ladder is unavoidable if you’re a contractor or you’re part of a cable or electrical installation crew. In some situations, you may find yourself working on projects on your own, and learning how to set up an extension ladder is an important skill you need to learn early on.
1. Understand How An Extension Ladder Works
An extension ladder is designed for use by a single person. This kind of ladder usually comes with two sections that are operated with a guide or bracket. These guides allow you to use an extension ladder at different lengths.
There are many types of ladders, and an extension ladder is a type that needs support. It needs to be placed against a stable structure and the base tied or supported to ensure safety while in use.
You must understand the different parts of an extension ladder, how it is operated, and how to carry it safely to your working area beforehand.
2. Wear Safety Equipment
Wear the required safety equipment in your line of work. The most common safety equipment and clothing necessary for contactors are
- Work gloves
- Safety belt or harness – usually recommended for workers working 3 meters or 10 feet or more from the ground.
- Personal fall protection equipment
Personal fall protection equipment is required for workers whose tasks may place him at risk for falls or fall injuries. Usually, the components of this personal safety equipment are designed according to the demands of the project at hand. All fall protection systems must have an anchorage, body support, and connection means for maximum wearer’s protection.
3. Choose The Ideal Area To Erect The Extension Ladder
An extension ladder should be set on a firm and level surface. You must make sure that the base of the ladder is secure. If you’re working in a busy street or a sidewalk, make sure that the area has been secured, and pedestrians or passersby are duly warned before you set up the ladder.
4. Erect Your Extension Ladder Safety
The upper section of the ladder should rest on the ladder’s bottom part. This means the bottom should face the side of a structure or a wall.
Secure the ladder’s feet so that the distance from the feet and top support is about a quarter of the working length of your extension ladder. As you position the ladder, it will lean 75 degrees from the floor or ground. Once the ladder is secure, you may now raise or lower the ladder from the ground.
5. Secure Locking Hooks
The ladder locking hooks will ensure that the extension is in place and will never move as you climb it. The ladder hooks must be secured by folding it down or clicking them in place; there are different locking hook designs, and you must be familiar with how yours work.
6. Using Extension Ladders On Elevated Area
If you’re accessing an elevated area, allow a minimum of 3 feet or a meter from the landing platform. This will make the ladder sturdier and safer as you need to use it to access a high surface. Always practice extreme care as you get on or off the top or bottom of the ladder. Be mindful of your movements when you work near an extension ladder as you may tip it sideways. This can make the base slide.
7. Tie The Ladder From The Base
In using an extension ladder, it’s vital to secure the base of the ladder even if you’re just using it for a few minutes. Use a brace or rope to tie it along the bottom. But if there’s no structure that you can use to tie the base, install a stake and tie the base from here. Leave the ladder in place with the base tied to a stake or structure until it’s time to take the extension ladder down.
Tie off the ladder from the upper section as well. This will prevent the ladder from moving or the top portion from accidentally sliding down.
8. Maintain Section Overlap
Check the ladder’s label or user’s instructions on the minimum number of sections that may be overlapped. The minimum overlap may depend on the ladder’s material, safety regulations indicated in the user’s manual and the manufacturer.
9. Erect Warning Devices Or Signs On The Area
Don’t forget to install safety signs or warning signs, especially when you’re using the extension ladder on a passageway, street, or doorway.
If you’re using a ladder indoors, the steps on how to use the extension ladder in the middle of room are similar to these steps. Make sure to inform everyone inside the house that you’re working on an extension ladder for safety.
10. Avoid Overexertion During Setup
An extension ladder weighs 25 kg or more so as much as possible; two persons should carry it up, and secure it. You must know how to use an extension ladder without straining your muscles and causing any accidents.
Before setting up, lay the ladder down on the ground near the area, you need to work on. Brace the extension ladder by securing a helper’s feet.
Hold the top with both hands and raise the top over your head and slowly move to the base. Stabilize your hold by grasping the middle of the rungs. With the ladder erect, move it to the area you need to work on. Let it lean on the structure or resting point.
As we said before, an extension ladder is designed to be used by one person. Do this by placing the bottom part of the ladder against the base of a structure or non-moving object. Lift the top and move it upwards so that the ladder is in a vertical position. With the ladder at this position, it’s easy to move it to the needed location. Always keep the ladder upright and near the body while maintaining a good grip on its sides.
And when you’re done, lower the ladder by reversing this step by step procedure.
Avoid the Following Scenarios When Using an Extension Ladder
Safety is essential every time you use a ladder. Remember the following scenarios when you should never use an extension ladder.
- Never Use Ladders On Power Lines
You must never place a ladder or an extension ladder near any power line. This must be kept 10 ft, away from any power lines. This is also true for other tools used to work on electrical or cable lines.
- Never Overextend A Ladder
Always follow all safety requirements when using an extension ladder. Never overextend a ladder and only use the minimum number of overlapped sections. For safety, never climb more than the 4th rung from the top.
- Never Use Unsecured Ladders On Slippery Surfaces Or Ice
If you need to work on a project while on ice, snow, or any slippery surface, secure the ladder’s feet and top with a rope. It’s also best to have someone hold the bottom of the ladder while working from the top.
- Never Leave An Unattended Ladder
Whether you’re at home or working from a client’s home, you should never leave a ladder unattended. If you need to work on another project, take the ladder down and store it.
- Never Let A Second Person Climb The Extension Ladder
As much as possible, only one person should work on the ladder. Take turns climbing an extension ladder or do it one at a time.
- Never Remove Or Set Up A Ladder When It’s Extended
If you must move a ladder or change position, take the extended part down first. Never set it up or move it when it is in an extended position.
- Never Use A Makeshift Ladder
Always use a ladder that has been properly inspected by a qualified or trained individual. Look for a seal or sticker of safety or an industry safety standard rating. Learning how to use an extension ladder safely is essential for any contractor or worker.
Remember, a safe worker is a responsible worker. Always consider safety whether you’re working indoors or outdoors with any kind of ladder or climbing equipment.