Most ladder accidents happen in the fall, when everyone is prepping their gutters for winter or putting holiday lights up (or both). Here's a 101 on extension ladder safety.

By Jenny Krane
Updated November 01, 2018
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock
Man on a ladder installing outdoor Christmas lights.

You can get those last few inches of string lights up without moving your ladder, right? Next thing you know, you're falling from roof height onto the cold, hard ground. Ouch.

No matter what outdoor task you're working on, you need to follow best practices when using ladders to stay safe. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 630,000 ladder-related injuries last year required medical treatment. Falling from any height could result in broken bones, head injuries, or skin lesions, and do-it-yourselfers in the yard need to be especially careful. Hanging lights or cleaning the gutters tend to be solitary jobs, meaning no one is there to help you or break your fall in the case of a ladder accident.

While people use ladders on their property in any season, fall brings a lot of reasons to need a ladder to get up to the roof. Falling leaves can clog gutters, blocking water flow and potentially causing leaks or damage to the house. Ice dams from freezing temperatures can damage walls and insulation and can lead to mold issues inside the home. And decking out the house for the holidays typically starts after Halloween.

Whatever reason you're up on a ladder, there are safety precautions you need to take. Here's what you need to know.

Related: 10 Tips for Hanging Holiday Lights

Ladder Safety Tips

  • Inspect every ladder before use. Make sure the rungs are secure and are free of dirt and paint buildup.
  • With an extension or straight ladder, make sure that the tops of both rails make solid contact with the wall and that both legs are placed firmly on the floor or ground.
  • Set the base of a straight or extension ladder 1 foot from the wall for every 3 feet of ladder height.
  • On the ladder, keep your hips between the rails for good balance.
  • Always wear rubber-soled or nonslip shoes on a ladder.
  • Avoid working in wet or windy weather.
  • Do not climb a wet ladder.
  • If you are getting something off a shelf, have someone there to spot you and grab the item from you before climbing down.