Possumhaw: Two men and a ladder



Shannon Bardwell



"The U.S. leads the world in ladder deaths. Each year there are more than 164,000 emergency room treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders. Most ladder deaths are from falls 10 feet or less."


International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (nachi.org)




You know, I saw a meme once depicting a man straddled across a stairway with one foot on a ladder and the other braced on the wall. The caption said, "Why women live longer than men."


That picture came to mind last week when Sam and his buddy, we'll call him Buddy, decided to help out a family member with some floor molding. The task was to add quarter-round to the baseboard of an octagonal room. They did such a good job they decided to investigate adding crown molding along the ceiling. Having only one ladder -- a 12-foot ladder and a questionable one at that -- both Sam and Buddy climbed the ladder to the top. In what Sam describes as a nanosecond later, both men lay dazed and confused on the hardwood floor. The metal ladder had shattered.


While Buddy laid sprawled on top of paint cans, Sam landed on his backside against the wall with his arm hyperextended behind him. The two men gathered up what they could and headed to their respective homes, leaving the onlooking family member poised to dial 911.


The following days were filled with Epsom salt and green rubbing alcohol baths, sports pro ointments, ice and rest. A doctor visit may have been in order, but well ... you know. Even though falls are the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths and the top cause of nonfatal injuries, this fall was about as unintentional as it gets. In 2017, 36,338 people died from falls. In the last decade 43 percent of fatal falls involved a ladder, as reported by cdc.org.


We are entering a season of increased ladder use: removing leaves from gutters, putting up Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then taking them down again. The following are a few helpful safety tips gleaned from the internet.


Choose the right size ladder for the job. Consider weight limits, including your own weight as well as tools and supplies. Use a tool belt and an assistant. Wear slip-resistant shoes. Inspect the ladder for defects, cracks, corrosion, secure bolts and rivets. Check the ladder's feet for slip-resistant pads. Use a fiberglass ladder if working with electricity. Place the ladder on firm and level footing. Confirm rigid support for the top of the ladder. Guard the ladder from doors and traffic paths. Climb the ladder slowly with deliberation, keeping your midsection centered on the ladder. Always have three points of contact: two hands and one foot, two feet and one hand, for stability. If working from the top of the ladder, make sure the ladder extends 3 feet above the landing. Never stand on top of the ladder. Don't pull, lean, stretch or move suddenly causing the ladder to tip over. Follow the 4-to-1 rule: For every 4 feet to climb, move the base 1 foot away from the wall.


Sam confessed he had a thought right before the fall -- "This is probably not safe."




Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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