November 05, 2007 14:45 ET

Step Up to a Fall-Free Autumn

These Safety Tips Can Help Prevent Ladder-Related Injuries

ROSEMONT, IL--(Marketwire - November 5, 2007) - Cleaning the gutters, hanging storm windows, putting up holiday decorations... autumn and winter bring plenty of household chores that require a ladder. Unsafe ladder use can result in very serious injuries. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that do-it-yourself-ers take precautions to ensure a fall-free season.

In 2006, more than 560,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries related to extension ladders, straight ladders, stepladders, and other types of ladders, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.

"Ladders are used so frequently that people don't usually think about them very much," says Kyle Jeray, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and spokesperson for the Academy. "Before stepping on that first rung, users should inspect the sturdiness and safety of the ladder."

The Academy has the following recommendations to prevent injuries while using ladders:

--  Select the most appropriate ladder for the job. For example, if you
    are working inside your home, choose a stepstool or small utility ladder --
    a size for working at low or medium heights. When you are working outside
    and need to reach your gutter, an extension ladder is most likely your best
    choice. Check your ladder's maximum load capacity to ensure that you, your
    equipment and supplies do not exceed the weight specifications for the
--  Inspect the ladder. Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or
    rungs that might not have been fixed from its last use. Clean off any oil,
    dirt, or other substance that could be slippery.
--  Properly position the ladder. Ladders should always be placed on a
    firm, level surface. Watch for spots on the ground or floor that are
    uneven, soft or slippery. Always engage the ladder locks or braces before
    climbing. If working outside, make sure the ladder, when extended, will not
    hit electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.
--  Remember the 'one-to-four rule': the bottom of the ladder should be
    one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises. For
    example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the base
    of the ladder should be four feet from the wall. If you are climbing onto a
    roof, the ladder should extend at least three feet higher than the edge of
    the rooftop. Additionally, the upper and lower sections of an extension
    ladder should overlap to provide stability.
--  Wear proper footwear. Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles
    of your shoes have good traction, and are free of any debris or greasy,
    oily or wet substances. Do not wear leather-soled shoes, as they are
--  Do not over-reach. Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can
    make you lose your balance and fall. Instead, climb down the ladder, move
    it and climb back up again.
--  Be careful when climbing. Ask someone to hold the ladder to provide
    stability while you climb up and down. Stay in the center of the ladder as
    you climb, and always hold the side rails with both hands. Also, make sure
    that only one person climbs the ladder at a time.
--  Move materials with caution. If you need to move large items or
    equipment while on the ladder, do so slowly and carefully. Moving heavy
    items suddenly can cause you to be thrown off-balance and fall.
--  Do not use a ladder as a seat between tasks. You might want to take a
    break from your chores, but never use the top step or pail shelf as a seat
    -- not even on a stepladder.

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