As you unearth your holiday decorations this month, you may also pull out a piece of equipment you don’t use too often at home — your ladder. Whether you want to hang lights, add a star atop your tree or affix a Hanukkah wreath above your front door, the ladder is an indispensable tool in your holiday merrymaking.
Unfortunately, many people do not practice ladder safety when decorating.
“Ladder safety provisions can go out the window when the ladder comes out at home,” says Pinnacol Safety Consultant Michael Lorenzo, a safety consultant at Pinnacol. “Homeowners often get themselves in trouble when they aren’t careful putting up holiday decorations.”
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 500,000 people receive treatment for ladder-related injuries every year, and 97 percent of those occur off the job.
Taking the same precautions you would use at work can decrease the chance of an accident. Lorenzo suggests heeding these five tips for better ladder safety at home.
1. Read the ladder’s safety label, and follow those recommendations. All ladders include weight limits and offer usage guidelines.
2. Face the ladder as you climb. Obey the bellybutton rule — keep that part of your body toward the ladder, centering your bellybutton between the left and right sides of the ladder.
3. Keep your hands free as you climb, with at least one hand in contact with the ladder. Yes, that means someone must hand you lights or decorations from the ground instead of your carrying them up the ladder while you ascend, which can trip you or set you off balance.
4. Never hop or jump on a ladder. Don’t laugh — Lorenzo says this happens more than you’d expect as people try to scoot the ladder slightly to one side for better reach. Instead, dismount the ladder, move it over, then climb up again.
5. Do not stand on the top or second-to-top step. Ladders are not engineered to support you at that height, and you also lose the feeling of contact between your legs and the ladder that helps you stay balanced.
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