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Sharp Health News

Deck the halls and steady the ladder

Dec. 1, 2015

Ladder safety

Whether you're more like Clark Griswold or the Grinch, you're likely to find yourself on a ladder sometime during the holiday season. From hanging festive lights to decking the tree and hiding presents in the rafters, a ladder can help you reach your holiday heights. We'd like to make sure you do it safely.

"A fall from even a slight height, like a ladder, can be very traumatic," says Tony Sanchez, a physical therapist and certified ergonomic associate with Sharp Rees-Stealy. "Whether it's your upper extremity, trunk, lower extremity or, in a worst-case scenario, your head that absorbs your body weight, you're likely to get hurt since none of those body parts were designed to withstand a fall."

Sanchez offers the following 10 ways to make your holidays merry and upright:

  1. Stay off the ladder if you've enjoyed a tad too much spiked eggnog. You'll also want to make sure you've had a good night's sleep and don't feel dizzy or ill before hitting that first rung.
  2. Don't tempt Mother Nature — she likes a good holiday "fail" video as much as the rest of us. Postpone decking the outdoors if it's windy, raining or snowing.
  3. The fuzzy Santa socks might feel warm and toasty, but they are not a good footwear choice for using a ladder. Wear appropriate shoes that can grip the ladder's rungs.
  4. Was your great-great-grandfather's sister's brother the original owner of the ladder in the back of the garage? If so, give it a thorough inspection to make sure it is in working order or make a trip to the hardware store or your neighbor's garage to get a newer model.
  5. Is that tree impossible to top even with the ladder you have on hand? If you have to reach or lean so far that the center of your body does not align with the ladder, you need a different ladder or a taller relative to do the job.
  6. You may not read the instructions on how to assemble the hot holiday toy at the top of your own little Cindy Lou Who's wish list, but you should definitely read the safety labels on your ladder. Note weight and reach limitations and stay off the top step and bucket platform — the warnings are there in bright red writing for a reason.
  7. Does Uncle Bob's version of "helping" always lead to harm? Remind him that only one person is allowed on the ladder at a time and suggest he steadies the ladder for you rather than join you on it.
  8. Keep both hands and at least one foot or both feet and at least one hand on the ladder at all times. (No, this is not so you can hold a glass of eggnog while decorating.) And make sure the feet of the ladder are level and slip-resistant.
  9. Make sure the ladder is not near a door or window that might swing open, close to live electrical wires or power lines or in the center of the cousins' strangely competitive annual game of flag football.
  10. If you can barely carry something heavy when walking on the ground, you definitely cannot carry it while climbing up a ladder. Make sure the ladder can hold both you and the jumbo deluxe vacuum cleaner and enlist the help of another person on an equally safe ladder if needed.

"A fall from a ladder can be highly disruptive to even the most basic of functions, like walking, reaching, grasping or even prolonged sitting," says Sanchez. "So, don't take shortcuts when using a ladder and always follow common-sense safety principles — it can make the difference between having happy holidays or hurting holidays."

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