October 10, 2019

Hanging holiday lights? First, check your ladder twice

With the holidays right around the corner, many Colorado landmarks are starting to promote their annual light festivals, which begin in late November. If you've come across one of these advertisements, chances are good that you're already thinking about how to light your own home or business.

At the risk of sounding like the Grinch, we have to mention holiday decorating has a downside — if you're not careful — and that's the risk of injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 15,000 ER-treated injuries occur while decorating for the holidays, with falls topping the list at 41%. Sadly, approximately three of these falls end in death each season.

To keep this season merry and bright, put these seven safety tips to work.

1. Make sure you have the right ladder

A step stool is fine for some tasks, but you'll want a heavy-duty ladder if you are climbing higher than you can comfortably reach. Before putting up just any ladder, consider the elements of the job, such as how much weight the ladder needs to hold on each rung and how high you'll be reaching. You want to make sure that you won't be straining to reach your target from too high of a rung, as indicated on the ladder.

2.    Design your master plan before climbing the ladder

Untangle those light strands, check the bulbs, and measure the length to make sure that all systems are good before you climb the ladder. Not only will it save you time — and aggravation! — but it will prevent you from making unsafe maneuvers while aloft.

3. Create a stable foundation

Using a ladder on uneven ground is just asking for trouble, as is using one leaning against a window or other precarious surface. If you don't have an ideal foundation to lean on, use a stabilizer and ladder leveler — a tool that consists of base units that you attach to the feet of the ladder. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), you should place a straight or extension ladder "one foot away from the surface it's resting on for every four feet of the ladder's working length," which is the distance along the side rail from the ground to the top support point.

4. Verify you have safe conditions

Before hanging holiday lights or décor, check the ladder itself to make sure there are no slippery or weak areas. You'll also want to wear slip-resistant shoes, make sure the  area is free of clutter, and have a way to guard doorways. That way, no one can inadvertently open a door and send you flying.

Finally, make sure that the ladder is open securely and that you're holding on to the rungs — not the side rails — when climbing up or down. The NSC recommends always maintaining three points of contact with the ladder — either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand.

5. Use the buddy system

When you're on a ladder, it's smart to have someone else around. After all, even Santa needs help from his elves. An extra set of vigilant eyes, ears, and hands could be the difference between a job well done and a job gone wrong. Keep in mind, however, that there should never be more than one person on a ladder. So, if you're too high up, climb down when you need a new strand of lights.

6. Know your limits

Remember that no holiday light display is worth compromising your well-being. When in doubt, leave the lights off the roof or bring in a team of professionals. The good news is that they will not only supply the lights and the labor, but they'll also take the lights down come the new year, which is often its own onerous task.

7. Try alternative décor

Don't want to climb a ladder at all? No problem. There are more alternative ways to decorate than ever before. Many of them are geared toward home light displays, but depending on the setup of your office exterior, they might also be appropriate for the workplace.

Some options to consider include inflatables, window-ready lights, and light projectors that show winter scenes or simulate falling snow. And, of course, there's nothing more welcoming than a wreath on your front door. Consider this the answer to displaying festive décor without compromising workplace safety.

But we get it — despite these great options, sometimes nothing substitutes for good old-fashioned holiday lights. So, for more tips on workplace safety, watch our video that covers ladder best practices in two minutes or less.