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Getting spring chores off the ground often literally means getting off the ground. Whether you’re cleaning windows or gutters, painting, or swapping out storm windows for screens, you may need a little help reaching your goal.

Ladders are the go-to tool for these situations, but they can be dangerous. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 65,000 Americans end up in the emergency room each year due to ladder accidents.

Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce the risks.

  1. Get the right ladder for the job.
  2. Before each use, inspect for cracks, loose or broken joints and other mechanical issues. As you set it up, make sure all braces and locks click firmly into place. Never use a damaged ladder.
  3. If using outdoors, watch out for overhead obstructions -- especially power lines. 
  4. Place the ladder on a stable, even, flat surface. Use a 1:4 ratio: place the base of the ladder one foot away from whatever you're leaning against for every 4 feet of ladder height.
  5. If you are using the ladder to climb onto another surface, make sure the ladder extends at least three feet past that surface.
  6. Always face the ladder whether climbing or descending. OSHA recommends keeping three points of contact with the ladder at all times: both feet and one hand, or both hands and one foot.
  7. DO NOT stand on the top rung or paint shelf.
  8. Always have someone hold a straight ladder for you when you’re climbing or descending. (It’s not a bad idea to have someone stabilize a stepladder for you, either!)
  9. Never leave ladders unattended.

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