October 22, 2021

Holiday ladder safety tips for hanging lights

Last year, residents across Colorado put up their holiday decorations in greater numbers and earlier than ever before, a small way to add joy to a challenging 2020. As Thanksgiving approaches this year, some people may do the same simply because they enjoyed those added weeks of festiveness.

If you are ready to decorate, here is a word of caution: The only thing worse than getting coal in your stocking is getting hurt while you deck your household’s halls. About 200 decorating-related injuries happen every day during the holidays, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and half of them involve falls.

Follow our seven tips to remain safe when using a ladder to hang lights and other decorations outside.  

1. Find the right size and type of ladder

You can use a step stool for some tasks, but you’ll need a heavy-duty ladder when you can’t reach something comfortably. Think about how much weight the ladder can hold on every rung and how high you need to reach. Pick the height and type accordingly.

2. Use the ladder correctly

Before stepping on a ladder, read the safety label and follow the weight limits and usage recommendations. Always keep in mind these rules:

  • Follow the “belly button rule”: Face the ladder, keep your belly button toward it at all times, and center your belly button between the right and left side rails of the ladder. 
  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder — either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand.
  • Never hop or jump on a ladder. 
  • Do not stand on the top step or the ladder cap. 

3. Make a plan before you get on the ladder

Carrying long strands of lights up a ladder can pose a danger if you step on the strands or try to carry too many things at once. Untangle the light strands and carry all decorations carefully, in light loads, to avoid making unsafe movements while you’re on the ladder.

4. Create a stable foundation for the ladder

Never use a ladder on uneven ground or lean it against a window or other unstable surface. You can use a stabilizer or a ladder leveler, a tool with base units that attach to the ladder’s feet, if needed. The National Safety Council (NSC) advises putting 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.

5. Only climb in safe conditions

The ladder should appear sturdy and should not have any wet or slippery surfaces nearby. Wear slip-resistant shoes, rid the area of clutter, and put a guard at any nearby doorways to ensure no one opens a door and hits you. Hold on to the rungs, not the side rails, as you climb or descend.

6. Always have a buddy nearby

Even reindeer use the buddy system, so be like them and have someone nearby when you climb the ladder. Your buddy can watch for problems and seek help if anything happens. Never allow two people on the ladder at the same time, though.

7. Know your limits

Don’t compromise your well-being for your decorations. You can always skip the lights on the roof or hire professionals to do the job — and they will even take the lights down for you when the holidays end.

Holiday lights can brighten your neighborhood and your mood this holiday season. Stay off Santa’s naughty list by using these tips, and watch our video for more ladder safety suggestions. Questions? Contact us at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.