How to Use a Ladder Safely to put up your Christmas Lights

We’re into December now folks, and it’s time for our annual warnings about staying safe when decorating your home for Christmas.  We’ve all seen newspaper and online reports on the real Christmas aficionados – those who aim to have the best Christmas lights in their town or even in the whole of the UK.  It’s always great fun to drive around the neighbourhood in the dark so that the kids can marvel at the house with the most lights and decorations.  We’ve even wondered whether some of the homes can be seen from space! 

If you’re putting up Christmas lights this year, whether it’s indoors, outdoor or both, then you’re sure to be working at height at some point.  Some of the most common injuries seen in the UK’s Accident and Emergency departments at this time of year involve falls from makeshift ladders as decorations are put in place.  Don’t be tempted to use a chair or table (or even worse, a chair placed on a table!) to reach those high spots.  Use a ladder that you know is in good repair and make sure that you do a pre-use safety inspection each time. 

So many of us use ladders in a domestic setting – they are really handy items of equipment and most households have one tucked away somewhere for when it’s time to redecorate or get into the attic.  Ladders used in the workplace are subjected to all manner of safety checks because employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of all employees and third parties.  This duty includes putting in place a procedure to ensure that all ladders and other access equipment is inspected each time it is used.  Most household ladders in the UK would not pass a health and safety test.

Whether you’re decorating the tree, the ceiling, the walls or the outside of the house, making sure you use the correct type of ladder for the task at hand is essential.  Once you’ve identified the right ladder to use, don’t forget to do a safety check to ensure that it’s in good working order – this is just as important in a domestic setting as it is in an industrial one.

Here are some tips that will help keep you safe when using ladders:

·         Make sure you choose the correct ladder for the task at hand – it is especially important to ensure that the ladder being used will allow full access to the area you need to reach without having to stretch too far.  Over-reaching (either upwards or sideways) while using a ladder is one of the most frequent causes of falls.

·         If you’re working on a leaning ladder, then make it a rule to always maintain a hand hold and keep both feet on the same rung whilst working.

·         The position of the ladder is vital – the one-in-four rule comes into play here.  For every four units up, the ladder should be positioned one unit out from the wall it is leaning on.  For example, a job that is eight feet high needs the ladder to be placed two feet out from the wall.

·         Whenever possible the ladder should be tied for extra stability – this will significantly reduce the risk of a fall and should be done whenever conditions allow.

·         It might seem patently obvious, but make sure that the surface on which the ladder is resting is stable.  The floor should not be slippery or uneven and the ladder feet should rest directly on the floor (not on material which is covering the floor).