Ladder SafetyOne of the most common tools in any home and garden-the ladder-can also be one of the most dangerous.

Worried? You needn’t be, as long as you exercise reasonable care in using a ladder. Following common sense guidelines and working smart means that you can work safely in your home and garden.

Step one is always read the instructions. Then read them again. Make sure you’re completely familiar with the operation of your brand of ladder.

Make sure you’re using the appropriate ladder for the job. A shorter utility ladder works for jobs like washing windows or hanging pictures. To paint the sides of a house, clean rain gutters or reach the roof, you’re going to need an extension ladder.

Next, inspect your ladder and make sure it’s good operating condition. Clean off any mud, liquid or chemicals that may have accumulated on the ladder since the last time you used it. Also check all the screws and hinges to determine if they’re secure, and make sure none of the steps are dented or damaged.

For maximum security and stability, extension ladders should be set up with their feet one-quarter of its extended length [e.g., a 12-foot ladder should be 3 feet from the house.] Most ladders have a sticker on them indicating the proper set-up distance. Next, engage the ladder safety locks before climbing on.

The top of a ladder is not a storage shelf or a seat. Don’t ever step or sit on the top step, and don’t use it to store heavy materials. It’s designed to hold nothing much heavier than a paint can or a few tools.

Take the time to get off the ladder and reposition it when you need to get closer to the area you’re working on. Don’t twist or lean forward-that’s how many ladder accidents occur. Keep your weight centered, with your hips between the rails. When you reach for things on shelves or place things in them, be careful.

If you’re using an extension ladder to reach a roof, make sure it’s extended at least two rungs above the eaves. This way, you can hold onto the ladder as you step onto the roof. Don’t stand sideways on the ladder, but face your work directly, furthermore, do not work alone, If you get into trouble, you need to have someone to help you down.

Last of all, when you’re ready to put the ladder away, don’t carry it upright. It’s too easy to lose control of it that way, and damage objects in your path. Carry it lower and parallel to the ground.