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extension ladder safety and setup

perhaps "ladder safety" is an oxymoron...

...after all, window cleaning via extension ladders is dangerous. to avoid personal and property damage we need to take a close look at ladder safety procedures. during the course of this article, i'll reference safety standards and regulations from the iwca, ansi, osha and cal osha. first, let's take a look at...

correct extension ladder setup:

prior to using an extension ladder, visually inspect and take the appropriate measures so that building features, such as window ledges, frames, entranceways and landscaping will not impair the safe climbing, descending and moving of a ladder.

extension ladder set up #1. copyright 2006 volitar industriesfirst - lay extension ladder flat on it's back with feet of the ladder butted up against building's wall. if a wall is not available, there are overhead obstructions, or other reasons you can't use building's wall to secure ladder, a second person can assist in setting up ladder. the second person takes the place of the wall by placing his or her foot on the bottom rung of the ladder and his or her other foot on one foot of the ladder.

extension ladder set up #2. copyright 2006 volitar industriessecond - lift ladder's top while pushing forward to maintain pressure against building's wall. *don't perform ladder work if you are not mentally or physically capable of safely accomplishing the work.

*lift with your legs, not your back.


extension ladder set up #3. copyright 2006 volitar industriesthird - lift ladder overhead. with your hands extending ladder to your highest point of reach, work hand over hand pushing ladder towards the building.

note: when you reach beyond the middle point of setting up your extension ladder, or lift past the middle rung; an increasing force of ladder's top weight will be working against your efforts. it may feel as though the top portion of the ladder will crash down over the back of your head; much , in the same way, a child's playground "see saw" works. *you'll need to remain focused and calm; continue to lift ladder while increasing pressure against building's wall.


extension ladder set up #4. copyright 2006 volitar industriesfourth - at this point, you're ready to rest extension ladder against the building.

(next --->)

  extension ladder set up #5. copyright 2006 volitar industriesfifth - lift ladder's base with both arms and move ladder slowly away from building. make sure not to move ladder into glass below or mar exterior building surface.

extension ladder set up #6. copyright 2006 volitar industriessixth - extend ladder using ladder's rope and pulley system while stabilizing ladder with your right or left foot on ladder's bottom rung. ladder must be close to, if not, fully vertical in position. once ladder is erected to the correct working height, slowly lower top of ladder until it rests against building. both feet of ladder and both left and right top arms of ladder must equally rest against building. to take down ladder, follow this guide in reverse.

tip: do not attempt extension ladder work when wind or when other weather conditions make it unsafe to the worker, property or public.



overhead electrical lines. copyright 2006 volitar industriestip: be extremely cautious when working around overhead energized electrical lines. a minimum safe distance is no less than 10 feet or 3 meters.






extension ladder safety tips:

extension ladder safety. copyright 2006 volitar industries ladder pitch: the horizontal distance from its top support point to the foot of the ladder is 1/4 of the unsupported length of the ladder. or, equal to 75° degree angle at level grade, i.e.. (ladder is extended 28' feet, it's base should be 7' feet from the building).

tip: do not stand above highest "safe standing level" prescribed by ladder's manufacturer, i.e.. (above top three rungs).

tip: do not extend the center of your body's torso past either side rail of ladder, i.e.. (do not over reach).

tip: keep atleast 3 points of contact when working, i.e.. (your feet and 1 hand).

tip: face ladder while ascending and descending.

tip: don't carry tools in hand, use a window cleaner's tool belt, or belt designed for the ladder work to be accomplished.

tip: wear proper footwear with non-slip soles.

tip: never leave erected ladder unattended.



barricade safety tape. copyright 2006 volitar industriestip: secure ladders placed in areas such as passageways, doorways, or driveways, or where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic to prevent accidental movement. or, use a barricade to keep traffic or activity away from the ladder.


extension ladder leveler and stabilizer:

ladder leveler. copyright 2006 volitar industriesall ladders must be leveled before climbing. the leveling device must be an approved or certified device.

climbing leveled ladder. copyright 2006 volitar industriesthe “ladder leveler” (left), is a fantastic addition to any extension ladder. although, it will add weight to your ladder, the safety features far outweigh the inconvenience. the ladder leveler allows you to mount your ladder on uneven surfaces such as... (sloped grades and stair cases) by extending one or the other of it’s two legs. it also has “feet” that roll forward and has “teeth” that will help stabilize the ladder when on slippery surfaces like grass and loose gravel. when working on flat, solid surfaces, roll the feet back to their standard position – black “rubber pads down”.

this ladder leveler has an addition benefit; it helps stabilize ladder by creating a larger ladder base width.

ladder stopper. copyright 2006 volitar industriesalthough, nonslip bases are not intended as a substitute for care in safe placing, lashing or holding a ladder that is being used on oily, metal, concrete or slippery surfaces, this "ladder stopper" (left) can help add addition traction and provide a safer ladder work environment for the user.

in the example shown, the ladder stopper is helping to stabilize an extension ladder on a home’s interior wood floor.

ladder mitts. copyright 2006 volitar industries"ladder mitts" (right) not only help protect property from be marred and damaged but, add stability to ladder's top. these rubber mitts can be easily added to and removed from common extension ladders. in my opinion, these are an absolute must, especially when mounting an extension ladder against vinyl, metal or other slippery building surfaces.

load ratings:

the american national standards institute defines the load rating of each ladder and is found printed on a safety label located on every ladder's leg. the type designation of each ladder is a rating of how much weight a single rung on the ladder can bear.

type 3 (use household) is safety rated to hold up to 200 pounds
type 2 (use commercial) is safety rated to hold up to 225 pounds
type 1 (use industrial) is safety rated to hold up to 250 pounds
type 1a (use industrial) is safety rated to hold up to 300 pounds
type 1aa (use industrial) is safety rated to hold up to 375 pounds

if you'd like to learn more about ladder safety click here.

disclaimer: ladder work is dangerous, and the use of techniques within this document may not be held liable against in the case of personal bodily or property damage. in other words... use at your own risk.

newsletter replies:

hey andy!

excellent article.  i never take for granted the safety that's required on the ladder.

another tip:  when i am cleaning 2nd story windows, i use a small hand ratchet clamp (that is attached to the ladder using a simple tie-down strap) to hold screens.  that way, i don't have to horse the screen around or go back down the ladder just to place the screen on the ground.  i always dry-brush the screens to get out a majority of dust and dirt that has accumulated.  simple procedure, but effective….customers like the look of clean screens!

screen clamp

take care and thanks for the good articles you send my way.  dd

dooley's window cleaning service

- dick dooley


good stuff. thank you.

- paul pate
blue ocean window cleaning


so i guess this is not a good example of ladder safety?


- jim chase


hi andy, i like the ladder safety page, with photos.  i am familiar with what you shared, but i bookmarked the page for showing new employees and others new to ladder work.

thanks for sharing!

- matt perry


i find your newsletter very helpful, interesting, and informative. i have been on your list for years. i can't tell you how many times i would encounter an unexpected challenge on a job, and as luck would have it, one of your news letters had covered the topic of the job at hand. (i have all of them archived, moreover, use them as reference material sometimes).

perhaps if the iwca convention comes to dallas tx. again, i might have the opportunity to shake your hand. you have helped me, and, so many other people. god bless you.   


- j.scott moose 



andy engstromabout the author: andy engstrom specializes in teaching real people how to start profitable window cleaning businesses that make $40,000 to $100,000 (or more) per year. to get instant access to all his most profitable window cleaning business strategies, tools, and resources,

visit: window cleaning business

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