Some claim it started in ancient Egypt. Others blame early Christians. But, for all sorts of reasons, people from ages past feared walking under ladders, and mankind has spent some 5,000 years participating in the silliness of the ladder step-around. But the reality is that ladders don't just threaten bad luck to the superstitious — they present a real danger, and it has nothing to do with what was dreamed up by some guy in a loincloth.
If you don't follow safety rules when using and transporting ladders, the consequences can be bad. Falls from ladders can be fatal, but even that isn't the only worry. Just failing to carry a ladder responsibly can spell trouble, so before your next project, be the master of your fate by getting familiar with the right way to haul these unwieldy tools.
Why It Matters
Keeping your tender toes from being smashed by a long, heavy ladder isn't the only reason to learn the rules of ladder transport. Dropping a ladder, or mishandling one in other ways, can cause damage to the ladder itself, which is a serious issue. A damaged ladder shouldn't be climbed by anyone.
Maneuvering around responsibly with these long tools also protects others who might be nearby and decreases the likelihood of damaging home interiors and exteriors, vehicles and other types of property.
Basic Carrying Guidelines
- Some ladders, such as those made from wood or fiberglass, are very heavy. Always lift with your legs, not your back. And find a lifting partner if the ladder is too heavy or too long for you to lift alone.
- Never drag a ladder across the ground and never drag it out of, for example, the back of a truck, allowing one end to fall to the ground. These moves can result in damage to the unsupported end of the ladder.
- When carrying a stepladder, tie the two sections together with rope or wire to prevent opening and closing that could pinch fingers or injure hands.
- Be aware of your surroundings when carrying a ladder to prevent collisions. Be especially alert when turning blind corners to avoid colliding with people or objects on the other side.
- Before moving an extension ladder to a new spot, always lower the upper section to facilitate easier carrying. An extended ladder will be much easier to manage when shortened.
Ways To Carry a Ladder
- The "suitcase" carry involves kneeling beside the ladder, grabbing the middle of the upper beam, finding your balance point and lifting. This can also be performed by two people.
- For the "low-shoulder" carry, kneel beside the ladder, grab the middle of the upper beam, find your balance point and lift. Pivot toward the ladder, running your free arm all the way between two rungs so the upper beam rests on that arm's shoulder. Grab a forward rung with your other hand and carry.
- For the "high-shoulder" carry, kneel, grab the middle of the upper beam, find your balance point and lift. Pivot into the ladder under the bottom beam as you lift so the bottom beam rests on your shoulder. Lift that arm and grab either a forward rung or the top beam and carry.
Don't Wing It
In addition to carrying a ladder responsibly, it's of the utmost importance to read the manufacturer's instructions that come with whatever type of ladder you have — whether it's a stepladder, an extension ladder or a basic single ladder. If you have a history of ignoring instructions and winging it, you may want to change your ways. Like all manufacturers, ladder manufacturers know what they're selling and want you to have the information that keeps you and everyone else safe.
- OSHATraining.com: OSHA Training Toolbox Talk: Transporting Portable Ladders Safely
- American Ladder Institute: Ladders 101
- Westbury Fire Department: Ground Ladders & Ladder Operations
- HowStuffWorks: Why Is Walking Under a Ladder Supposed to Be Unlucky?
- LiveScience: The Surprising Origins of 9 Common Superstitions