You know what they say? “A safe climb makes the holidays sublime.”
Okay, nobody has ever said that, but homeowners and inspectors should consider this an important mantra due to the surprisingly numerous reasons for scaling rooftops in the dead of snowy winter.
From the casual holiday observer stringing lights along their gutters to the annual bringers of the season recreating Santa’s yearly voyage atop their own roofs, it isn’t crazy to view that ladder in your garage as just as much a holiday fixture as the artificial tree stashed in the attic.
Some may say a lump of coal is the worst thing you can receive around this time of the year, but a huge medical bill for a completely preventable ladder fall is certainly stiff competition, especially if you’re a home inspector that is regularly asked to scale and evaluate roofs of all types and slopes.
It turns out a little ladder safety does make the holidays sublime, but best practices are not as simple as they seem. Some inspectors, in order to complete jobs quicker, are tempted to cut corners in small, but potentially costly ways. For some, that means setting their ladder on an uneven or slippery surface; for others, it could be scaling a ladder one-handed while juggling various tools and supplies.
Several years ago, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a study about ladder safety and injuries. In it, researchers estimated that over 15,000 non-fatal ladder fall injuries occurred during that year, while 113 accidents resulted in worker deaths. And before you shoo that away by asserting that those falls likely came from a massive height, much higher than a typical household roof, not so fast! In fact, the most common fall distance of observed accidents was between 6 and 10 feet.
To protect you and your inspection business this holiday season, let’s get back to basics with some crucial ladder safety tips:
1. Climbing an Unanchored Ladder
Icy, wintery surfaces put a high premium on ground traction. Positioning your ladder in the most “secure” spot is difficult and, ultimately, subjective, so it’s good practice to tether your ladder to prevent slips and collapses.
Anchoring your ladder to a sturdy, nearby pole or the home itself will provide additional protection and peace of mind. In a pinch, you could also drive a thick, elongated stake into the ground and tie one of the rear support legs to it for additional bracing. Just remember to drive the stake into the ground within an inch or two, so you don’t create an impaling risk, should you fall backwards.
2. Using the Wrong Type of Ladder
Yes, all ladders still go straight up, and there isn’t a ton of nuance when it comes to their design, except when it comes to the construction material. Metal ladders are typically the go-to, but if you know you’ll have to position it near low-hanging telephone wiring or against electrical equipment, opt for a ladder made from wood or fiberglass, due to their non-conductive material.
3. Positioning a Ladder Over an Unlocked Door
The mistake and risks are obvious here, so let’s focus on preventative measures. The most effective strategy is avoiding these areas entirely, but if you absolutely must place a ladder over a door, ask the homeowner to lock it and advise any other cohabitants to avoid using said door for the duration of the inspection. If an attic hatch is in the garage detach the vehicle door from the opener so help prevent the vehicle door from hitting the ladder if someone opens it without knowing someone is on the other side on a ladder.
4. Using a Ladder With Unevenly Spaced Rungs
Equal rung spacing is key to even support distribution, not to mention that uneven rung placement can create inconsistent step spacing, which could lead to unanticipated foot snagging and tripping. Your ladder’s rungs should be 10 to 14 inches apart. If they’re not, time for a new ladder.
5. Not Establishing “Three Points of Contact”
To ensure optimal body stability while scaling your ladder, make sure that, between your hands and feet, you’re establishing three points of contact at all times. Some inspectors will, for lack of a better term, fall short of this because they’re handling tools during their ascent, or even more dangerously, using a ladder as a ramp between two points. This is some of the riskiest ladder use you can exhibit, so avoid the temptation to misuse your unit just for the sake of expediting your project.
6. Leaving Your Ladder Unattended
Sustaining a ladder injury during a home inspection or hanging decorations is horrible, but if it’s one of the home’s residents, that can create a whole host of liabilities. Remember to never leave a raised ladder unattended because there’s no way to ensure that a curious third person or child won’t scale it to take a peek at what you’re inspecting or doing.
7. Proper Angle
Ladders that are leaning too much increase the chance that the bottom of the ladder will slide out. If the ladder is too vertical then the odds of it tilting backwards also increases. The recommended angle is this; for every 4 feet of height the bottom should be one foot out. For example if the ladder is 12 in height then the bottom of the ladder should be 3 feet out.
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, or hanging Christmas decorations over your new home the entire relocation process is incredibly layered and complex. Most people, however, anticipate the lion’s share of that complexity coming from the property transaction or finding a quality team of Columbus movers. The last thing you want before braving those two phases is an unsatisfactory home inspection performed by an uncertified amateur.
If you live in the Columbus and Central Ohio area and would like a thorough, time-tested professional to guide you through the home inspection process, there’s no better place to turn than Habitation Investigation. To schedule your inspection today, call (937) 205-4758 or (614) 413-0075, or schedule online. www.homeinspectionsinohio.com