Ladder Safety and Setup
Safety" is an oxymoron...
...After all, window
cleaning via extension ladders IS dangerous. To avoid personal and property
damage we need to take a close look at ladder safety procedures. During
the course of this article, I'll reference safety standards and regulations
from the IWCA, ANSI, OSHA and Cal OSHA. First, let's take a look at...
Extension Ladder Setup:
Prior to using an
extension ladder, visually inspect and take the appropriate measures so
that building features, such as window ledges, frames, entranceways and
landscaping will not impair the safe climbing, descending and moving of
First - lay extension ladder flat on it's back with feet of the ladder butted
up against building's wall. If a wall is not available, there are overhead
obstructions, or other reasons you can't use building's wall to secure
ladder, a second person can assist in setting up ladder. The second person
takes the place of the wall by placing his or her foot on the bottom rung
of the ladder and his or her other foot on one foot of the ladder.
Second - lift ladder's top while pushing forward to maintain pressure against
building's wall. *Don't perform ladder work if you are not mentally or
physically capable of safely accomplishing the work.
*Lift with your legs,
not your back.
Third - lift ladder overhead. With your hands extending ladder to your highest
point of reach, work hand over hand pushing ladder towards the
you reach beyond the middle point of setting up your extension ladder,
or lift past the middle rung; an increasing force of ladder's top weight
will be working against your efforts. It may feel as though the top
portion of the ladder will crash down over the back of your head; much
, in the same way, a child's playground "See Saw" works. *You'll
need to remain focused and calm; continue to lift ladder while increasing
pressure against building's wall.
Fourth - At this point, you're ready to rest extension ladder against the
||Fifth - lift ladder's base with both arms and move ladder slowly away from
building. Make sure not to move ladder into glass below or mar exterior
Sixth - Extend ladder using ladder's rope and pulley system while stabilizing
ladder with your right or left foot on ladder's bottom rung. Ladder must
be close to, if not, fully vertical in position. Once ladder is erected
to the correct working height, slowly lower top of ladder until it rests
against building. Both feet of ladder and both left and right top arms
of ladder must equally rest against building. To take down ladder, follow
this guide in reverse.
Tip: Do not
attempt extension ladder work when wind or when other weather conditions
make it unsafe to the worker, property or public.
Tip: Be extremely cautious when working around overhead energized electrical
lines. A minimum safe distance is no less than 10 feet or 3 meters.
Ladder Safety Tips:
Ladder Pitch: The horizontal distance
from its top support point to the foot of the ladder is 1/4 of the unsupported
length of the ladder. Or, equal to 75° degree angle at level grade,
i.e.. (ladder is extended 28' feet, it's base should be 7' feet from the
Tip: Do not
stand above highest "safe standing level" prescribed by ladder's
manufacturer, i.e.. (above top three rungs).
Tip: Do not
extend the center of your body's torso past either side rail of ladder,
i.e.. (do not over reach).
Tip: Keep atleast
3 points of contact when working, i.e.. (your feet and 1 hand).
Tip: Face ladder
while ascending and descending.
carry tools in hand, use a window
cleaner's tool belt, or belt designed for the ladder work to be accomplished.
Tip: Wear proper
footwear with non-slip soles.
leave erected ladder unattended.
Tip: Secure ladders placed in areas such as passageways, doorways, or
driveways, or where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic
to prevent accidental movement. Or, use a barricade to keep traffic
or activity away from the ladder.
Ladder Leveler and Stabilizer:
ladders must be leveled before climbing. The leveling device must be an
approved or certified device.
Ladder Leveler (left), is a fantastic addition to any extension
ladder. Although, it will add weight to your ladder, the safety features
far outweigh the inconvenience. The Ladder Leveler allows you to mount
your ladder on uneven surfaces such as... (sloped grades and stair cases)
by extending one or the other of its two legs. It also has feet
that roll forward and has teeth that will help stabilize the
ladder when on slippery surfaces like grass and loose gravel. When working
on flat, solid surfaces, roll the feet back to their standard position
black rubber pads down.
This ladder leveler
has an addition benefit; it helps stabilize ladder by creating a larger
ladder base width.
nonslip bases are not intended as a substitute for care in safe placing,
lashing or holding a ladder that is being used on oily, metal, concrete
or slippery surfaces, this "Ladder Stopper" (left) can help
add addition traction and provide a safer ladder work environment for
In the example shown,
the ladder stopper is helping to stabilize an extension ladder on a homes
interior wood floor.
Mitts" (right) not only help protect property from be marred and
damaged but, add stability to ladder's top. These rubber mitts can be
easily added to and removed from common extension ladders. In my opinion,
these are an absolute must, especially when mounting an extension ladder
against vinyl, metal or other slippery building surfaces.
The American National
Standards Institute defines the load rating of each ladder and is found
printed on a safety label located on every ladder's leg. The Type designation
of each ladder is a rating of how much weight a single rung on the ladder
Type 3 (Use Household)
is safety rated to hold up to 200 pounds
Type 2 (Use Commercial) is safety rated to hold up to 225 pounds
Type 1 (Use Industrial) is safety rated to hold up to 250 pounds
Type 1A (Use Industrial) is safety rated to hold up to 300 pounds
Type 1AA (Use Industrial) is safety rated to hold up to 375 pounds
If you'd like to learn more about ladder safety click here.
Disclaimer: Ladder work is dangerous, and the use of techniques within this document
may not be held liable against in the case of personal bodily or property
damage. In other words... Use At Your Own Risk.
Excellent article. I never take for granted the safety that's required on the ladder.
Another tip: When I am cleaning 2nd story windows, I use a small hand ratchet clamp (that is attached to the ladder using a simple tie-down strap) to hold screens. That way, I don't have to horse the screen around or go back down the ladder just to place the screen on the ground. I always dry-brush the screens to get out a majority of dust and dirt that has accumulated. Simple procedure, but effective….customers like the look of clean screens!
Take care and thanks for the good articles you send my way. dd
Dooley's Window Cleaning Service
- Dick Dooley
Good stuff. Thank you.
- Paul Pate
Blue Ocean Window Cleaning
So I guess this is not a good example of ladder safety?
- Jim Chase
Hi Andy, I like the ladder safety page, with photos. I am familiar with what you shared, but I bookmarked the page for showing new employees and others new to ladder work.
Thanks for sharing!
- Matt Perry
I find your newsletter very helpful, interesting, and informative. I have been on your list for years. I can't tell you how many times I would encounter an unexpected challenge on a job, and as luck would have it, one of your news letters had covered the topic of the job at hand. (I have all of them archived, moreover, use them as reference material sometimes).
Perhaps if the IWCA convention comes to Dallas Tx. again, I might have the opportunity to shake your hand. You have helped me, and, so many other people. God bless you.
- J.Scott Moose
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andy Engstrom specializes in teaching real people how to start profitable Window Cleaning businesses that make $40,000 to $100,000 (or more) per year. To get instant access to all his most profitable window cleaning business strategies, tools, and resources,
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