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Climbing the Ladder Has Its Risks

More than half a million ladder accidents occur each year

SUNDAY, June 23, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- It's considered bad luck to walk under a ladder. But you should probably be more concerned about your safety when you're actually on the ladder.

Every year, more than 511,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms, doctor's offices and clinics for ladder-related injuries. Most are cuts, bruises and broken bones but more than 300 people die each year from ladder accidents - that's almost a death a day, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The academy offers some ladder safety tips:

  • Inspect the ladder. Check for loose screws, hinges or rungs. Clean off any mud or liquids.
  • Insure a proper setup. The ladder should be on a firm, level surface. Never place it on uneven ground or flooring. Always engage the ladder locks or braces. When working outside, ensure the ladder doesn't hit wires, tree limbs or other obstructions when you extend it.
  • Remember the 1-to-4 rule. The bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that it rises. The upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.
  • Don't use the ladder's top or paint shelf as a seat when you want to take a break.
  • Always position your ladder close to the work. Reaching or leaning too far to one side can cause you to lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder.
  • Wear proper footwear. Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles of your shoes are free from any greasy, oily or wet substances. Don't wear leather-soled shoes - they're slippery. Pant legs shouldn't be too wide or too long.
  • Be careful when climbing, and get help if you need it. Ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the center of the ladder as you climb and always hold the side rails with both hands.
  • More information

    This article from the Nemours Foundation outlines the most common types of household accidents and gives some suggestions as to how they might be prevented.

SOURCE: news release, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, June 2002
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