Spring really is here, finally! Time to dust of your ladders for a spring clean. Hopefully now we are into May (though it seems we have inherited April's showers) we shouldn't see any snow for a few months... Plus, with a few bank holidays sprinkled around, it's also that time of year when the paintbrushes come out, garages, sheds and gardens are tidied, lawns are mowed and generally everybody has a bit of a sort out. Spring cleaning is one of those long projects that can involve a few different ladders. There might be a short step used indoors, a tall step ladder used for painting, a loft ladder for ferrying bits and pieces to and from the attic, an extension ladder for reaching guttering and windows; almost every type of ladder you can think of often gets pulled out at this time of year. But, the most important thing to consider when using any of these types of ladders is safety. It doesn't take long to check a ladder for wobbles and breaks, but it can take six weeks for a broken bone to heal.
Good Ladders are Safe Ladders!
The important things you need to check on a domestic ladder are the hinges and rungs. Check that the rungs are not loose and especially check for cracks if the ladder is made of wood. Also check that the rungs have no residue on them that might cause someone to slip. If in doubt, clean the rungs and rails before you use the ladder. On hinges, check that they move freely and are not rusted and also that they are properly fixed to the ladder frame with no loose screws. If the ladder is new, read the instructions and warnings that come with the ladder to familiarise yourself with how the ladder works. It might seem simple, but if you don't know where the locking mechanism is on a step ladder, you could be badly hurt. The instructions will also inform you about the maximum load and height limitations of the ladder, information that you should always pay attention to. Think about the purpose of the ladder you are using. If you are going to be working with electricity or near overhead power cables, you must never use a metal ladder. This can prove fatal and a wooden or fibreglass ladder will provide the insulation that a metal ladder won't. This information will be in the manufacturer's instructions as well. When setting the ladder up, remember that the angle of the ladder affects its stability greatly. As a general rule, for each foot of ladder height, the base of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall it is leaning against. If the ladder you are using is too close or too far away from the wall, it could very easily fall. If possible, use another person to hold the ladder at the bottom. Never set up a ladder on wet, icy or uneven ground. There are some ladders with extending, swivelling feet that cope well with uneven ground, but they have been specially designed for that. Never use a standard ladder on uneven ground without some kind of accessory for stability. Stabilising legs can be attached to many ladders and there are also ladder stops and safety mat feet which provide stability, help even out undulating ground and spread the impact of the ladder over a wider area. These are all available from the Midland Ladders website, along with buckets, brackets, tags, replacement feet and lots of other useful bits and bobs; all with 24 hour delivery, just have a look around the accessories page. Else, if you need advice on which safety equipment is going to be best suited (and fit properly!) to your ladders, please call us to talk through what you may need and you could have the right safety accessory delivered to your door the next day. When setting up a step ladder, ensure that the spreaders or braces between the two sides are fully extended and locked in position. If this is not done, when any weight is put on the ladder it could snap into place, causing the ladder to topple and fall.
It's Time To Climb
When you have inspected and set up the ladder properly, it's time to climb. This, for many people, is not a fun experience if you have any fear of heights. However, it can be made a lot safer by being cautious, always using both hands to climb and descend the ladder and looking where you are putting your feet. It might sound obvious, but missing a rung on a ladder is easily done and incredibly dangerous. When on the ladder, whether you are moving or not, it's important to keep your centre of gravity in line with the ladder. Wear a belt (ideally a tool belt to help you carry equipment) and always keep the buckle in between the rails. Always face the ladder; don't try and turn round when climbing or descending, if someone on the ground needs to tell you something, it can wait until you've descended. Never try to climb a ladder holding tools or materials. Always use a tool belt or get someone to help. Keeping tools in your clothes pockets is not the safest way of carrying them: tool belts are made from thick material, which will not be punctured by, say, a screwdriver or hammer claws and jeans will not protect you from injuring yourself if you fall. You should always wear suitable footwear, which means something with closed toes (no flip-flops!) and a good sole for gripping. Workboots are ideal, but gardening boots, walking boots and sturdy trainers are all suitable. When you have finished the job that needed the ladder, make sure all people and equipment (paint, nails etc) are off the ladder and out of the way before it is moved and put away. If you followed all the advice above, everything should have gone smoothly and your house will be a little bit cleaner for the Spring!
I inspected my ladder and I don't think it's safe. What shall I do?
Ladders can cause accidents very easily, so if in doubt, don't use it. If you know anyone who works with ladders regularly, you could ask for their opinion (and to borrow a ladder from them if yours is not up to the job). If the ladder is beyond safe use, a replacement is in order. Our blog has articles about all different types of ladder, so for in depth advice, please have a look at these other articles or drop us a message. If you find you need to replace all your ladders, then the multipurpose ladder is the best bet. It means you can replace a step ladder and extension ladder in one go; it takes up less room than two or more ladders and gives you the added functionality of a staircase ladder and work platform on top. You might never need another ladder! The Little Giant Select Step is a good option for the homeowner or a tradesperson. Built to last, it can be set up in 24 different configurations and is very easy to use, with an accessories range that includes paint trays, tool trays and extra handles, meaning you won't need to try and borrow a tool belt if you don't have one! If you pop over to the main Midland Ladders site from the link above you'll be able to take advantage of our fab offer on the Little Giant Select Step, we now supply every one complete with the 'Airdeck' multi-use tool tray and handrail at no extra cost! If you have any good safety tips we haven't covered that you think would be useful to our readers please pop them in the comments below to share.