Extension Ladders: Use them Safely and Wisely
By: The Working Man
Extension ladders are a straight ladder that must be placed at a
slant and rest against a secure surface before being climbed.
Unlike a simple straight ladder, however, an extension ladder is
made up of two or more ladder sections that are attached together
with internal guides on the bottom section and external guides on
the top sections so that the sections may be pulled apart or
pressed together to lengthen or shorten the ladder.
In this way the ladder can be shortened to facilitate carrying it
by hand or on a work truck, but when extended it can be used to
reach heights from sixteen to forty feet (five to twelve meters).
Shorter extension ladders are normally extended by hand and
fastened by gravity spring-lock brackets that rest on a ladder
rung. Longer extension ladders are usually extended by way of a
rope and pulley system that runs down the side of the ladder. A
cleat secures the rope once the desired length is reached.
Extension ladders are usually aluminum or fiberglass with rungs
of aluminum for strength and lower weight. More rarely, they also
may be made of steel. The bottom of these ladders has a "ladder
shoe," a wide pivoting brace with a serrated surface to help the
ladder rungs not slip on hard surfaces.
Rungs on extension ladders may be flat or round but both usually
have a rough surface to prevent slipping. Extension ladders are
available in quality classifications of consumer (household),
commercial (mechanic) and industrial grades.
When choosing an extension ladder for a particular job, get one
that is two or three feet higher than the height you need to
reach in order to allow for the ladder sections overlap. Also,
when decided on the length of ladder to purchase, be sure to
remember that you cannot in safety stand on the top three rungs
of an extension ladder, the ladder should extend three to four
feet above the top of the area you are trying to reach.
Once the extension ladder is set up on a flat and stable surface
and securely leaned at a seventy-five degree angle onto the
object to be climbed, (The bottom of the ladder should be one
foot from the wall for every four feet of ladder.), use leg
levels and stay locks to secure the ladder from either sliding
down or slipping over when you are climbing it.
A few extension ladder safety tips:
Extension ladders are the most common ladders involved in
electrocutions by contact with electric wiring. Don't carry the
ladder in its extended position, and don't take chances with
electrical lines being nearby. Wind or slippage of the ladder has
tossed more than one worker into power lines.
Don't jerk or extend your reach more than a foot outside the
ladder rails. Get down and move the ladder manually, then climb
it again. Doing the job a little more quickly is not worth
risking your health or life.
Don't climb above the labeled maximum height line or step on any
part of the ladder but the rails.
Never climb an extension ladder in strong rain or if lightning is
or has recently been in the area.
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