Ladder Safety 101
Updated: May 23
So you want to get up on your roof and install those nifty new heat cables? Not a problem, as long as you take some important precautions. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year more than 500,000 people are treated for ladder-related injuries and about 300 people die. It’s not our intention to make you fear your roofing project. On the contrary, we know you can do this, and here are some important safety tips to follow while you’re at it:
Wait for Dry Weather and No Wind
Any job several feet off the ground is already hazardous. Throw in wind, snow, rain, or ice, and you’re likely to end up at the hospital. Whatever is happening up on your roof, it’s not important enough to risk your life. If you’re really worried about snow accumulation, use a long-handled roof rake to remove some of the white and then go back inside and enjoy some hot cocoa. You can put up those heat cables another day.
Download the NIOSH Ladder Safety App
The app was designed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health to provide interactive, user-friendly tools to prevent common ladder accidents. The selection and inspection tools will help you decide which ladder is right for your project and how to keep your ladder equipment in tip-top shape, while the angle measuring tool uses visual, sound, and vibration signals to help you set the correct angle (75 degrees) of your extension ladder. The app is free and available for both Apple and Android operating systems.
Choose the Right Ladder
Your ladder should be long enough to extend at least three feet above the edge of the roof. It should also be engineered to support the weight of the workload, which in this case is you, your clothing and tools, the cable and other materials you will be hauling up to the top, and any items you might be keeping on the ladder while you work. The total weight a ladder can safely accommodate is called the Duty Rating and should be clearly labeled. For instance, a type IAA ladder is extra heavy-duty and can hold up to 375 pounds, while a type III is only meant for light duty or about 200 pounds.
Inspect the Ladder and the Surroundings
Take a good look at your ladder. Are there any loose screws, hinges, or rungs? How about broken or bent pieces? Best not to try and do a temporary fix just to get to your roof project. A jury-rigged ladder isn’t safe, and a quick fix may just fail with possibly disastrous circumstances. You’ll also want to clean the surfaces to get rid of any mud, grease, oil, or other slippery substances. Make sure the ladder is clear of tree limbs, power lines, and other electrical equipment, and not over a door or window that opens outward.
Solidify Your Base
Make sure your ladder has slip-resistant feet and it is stationed on level and firm ground. If the ground is uneven or soft, you’ll need to use leg levelers. Using an extendable leg and adjustable foot system, a leg leveler will give your ladder solid, level footing for any project. If you’re using an extension ladder, ensure it is fully open and the spreaders or braces between sections are extended and locked.
Ladder Do’s and Don’ts
Once your ladder is good to go, a few things will help you stay safe while you’re on it. First, have a buddy working with you to hold the ladder steady from below. Second, keep your body in the center between the rungs and avoid leaning too much to either side. Third, don’t go above the third rung from the top of ladder or stand on the bucket shelf. The shelf is not made to hold more than a bucket of paint or few tools. Finally, you’ll want to wear sturdy boots or some form of closed-toed shoes with non-slip soles.
Installing heat cables on your roof can be a fun and challenging project when you put safety first and use the right materials. Here at Heat Cable, we hope we can be your trusted partner in lining up the best heat cable for your home and provide you with important information on this and any other future DIY roof winterization plans. And next winter, when the snow starts to fly and your neighbors are fretting about the snow piling up on their roofs, you can kick back in your comfy chair and binge your favorite Netflix show.