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Vanderbilt Emergency Medicine physician offers spring cleaning ladder safety tips

Jun. 4, 2013, 1:00 AM


Spring cleaning sometimes takes intrepid householders to new heights: scaling ladders to clean gutters, wash windows, dust light fixtures or engage in other off-the-ground beautification or maintenance projects.

Unfortunately, ladders can be among the most hazardous of common household devices, says Corey Slovis, M.D., professor and chair of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Ladders are essentially unstable devices that we must try to make as stable as possible,” he says.

Across the U.S., more than 90,000 people are treated annually for ladder-related injuries according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and in his years as an emergency-room physician, Slovis has seen his share of terrible injuries caused by ladder falls.

“Falling off a ladder can kill you, or change your ability to walk for the rest of your life,” he says.

Slovis offered some tips to use ladders safely:

  • Going to the very top of a ladder can get you to the bottom very suddenly. Don’t go above the second step from the top.
  • Even if your ladder is stable, you need to stay stable, too.  Never reach back or too far to either side.
  • Always try to have a buddy at the base, and a ladder should never be placed in front of a door unless it is locked or guarded.
  • The more you carry, lift or hoist, the more likely you are to get hurt. Several smaller loads are better than one big one.
  • Don’t straddle space between a ladder and another point, and when climbing, maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times.
  • Just as you don’t drink and drive, don’t drink and climb, either.


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