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5 Ladder Safety Tips to Prevent Holiday Decoration Fiascos
Taking the time to read a few ladder safety tips can ensure your holiday season is merry and bright
Are you among the millions of Americans who say decorating for the winter holidays is one of their favorite things to do each year?
It’s always fun to “deck the halls” during the holiday season, but don’t forget to put the safety of yourself and others ahead of any grand decorating plans. Although this time of year can be magical, it can also be incredibly dangerous.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that emergency rooms treat around 14,700 decorating injuries during the holiday season—an average of 240 injuries per day. Most holiday home decorating incidents involved:
- Falls (41%)
- Lacerations (10%)
- Back strains (5%)
In addition to injuries, three deaths were reported due to ladder falls—three deaths that likely could have been prevented with some ladder safety tips and a bit more caution.
Is it time to retire your ladder before you decorate this season?
Before you use your ladder to help decorate this year, give it a proper inspection to make sure it's still safe. What should you be looking for? The American Ladder Institute offers these ladder safety tips:
- No part of your ladder should be broken or bent or have missing or worn-out parts. Don't try to fix the ladder, especially if the side rail is bent or broken. Get a new one.
- Ladders exposed to excessive heat or corrosive substances may have reduced strength. If your ladder was near a fire, acids, or alkali materials, it's time to put it out of service.
If everything appears to be in working order, look a little closer. Clean climbing and gripping surfaces. Check working parts, bolts, rivets, step-to-side rail connections, and the anti-slip feet.
Does your ladder pass all the tests? Great. Before you decorate your home, brush up on a few more ladder safety tips so you're ready to go.
5 Ladder Safety Tips Everyone Should Follow
Whether you're planning to string twinkling lights along the trim of your house or you're trying to get a giant, inflatable Santa up on your roof, some basic rules apply.
1. Use the right ladder for the job.
The ladder you choose should extend 3 feet beyond your roofline, so don't grab one that just barely makes it to the roof. In addition to being the right height, the ladder should also be able to bear your weight, plus more—check the maximum load rating. Straight, single, or extension ladders should be propped up at a 75-degree angle. The CPSC recommends standing up straight with your toes touching the feet of the ladder as it leans away from you. Extend your arms in front of you—if your palms touch the top of the rung that's at your shoulder level, your ladder is about 75 degrees.
2. Don't work alone.
You may like to get everything done by yourself, but one of the most critical ladder safety tips is not to climb a ladder without someone else around. That person can hold your ladder steady while you're climbing and alert you to any problems. Also, in the event you do fall or get injured, someone will be there to help right away.
3. Work with the weather.
If you planned to string lights outside on Saturday, but Saturday turns out to be windy and rainy, you'll need to reschedule. Work with the weather, not against it, because Mother Nature is always going to win. High winds can knock you off balance and rain (even drizzle) can make your ladder slippery. Choose a dry day with calm winds.
4. Watch where you set up.
Place your ladder on a firm foundation and far away from any doors that could open into you. If the ground is soft, set a board between the ladder's feet and the soil. The National Safety Council says to never lean a ladder against a window pane or other unstable surface, fasten ladders to an upper support, and never place a ladder on top of an object to gain additional height.
5. Don't drink and decorate.
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Shawn Evans, an emergency medicine physician at Scripps Memorial Hospital in California, said falls are the "hands down" the most common injury cause he sees during the holiday season. However, the second most common source of injuries? Alcohol. Alcohol and ladders are a dangerous combination. Even one drink has the potential to impact your balance, coordination, and judgment. Don't take the chance and convince yourself that you're "fine" to decorate.
Using Lights and Electronic Devices Outdoors
Outdoor lights are an incredibly common holiday decoration, but that doesn't mean they're 100% safe. If you're planning on displaying electronics outside your house, here are some things to keep in mind from the Electrical Safety Foundation International:
- Plug outdoor electronics into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). If you don't have those, you can purchase a portable outdoor GFCI.
- Check lights and cords for any damage before you use them. Look for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out anything that's damaged.
- Keep all cords and lights clear of snow and standing water.
- Be selective with the number of electrical devices you use. Don't overload electrical outlets with too many decorations because they may overheat and spark a fire.
- Turn all outdoor (and indoor) lights/electronics off before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Finally, use the right tools to hang decorations safely. In addition to a sturdy ladder, you may want to have light clips (to keep them in place), a measuring tape, and a light-hanging pole for trees so you can avoid ladders altogether.
Another way to stay safe this holiday season? Have insurance to protect your home, your life, and your valuables. Contact Fergurson Insurance to learn more.