Published 11/4/2019

Winterize your home one step at a time

Orthopaedic surgeons offer ladder safety tips to help prevent falls and injury

ROSEMONT, Ill. (November 4, 2019) — Can you feel the chill in the air? Winter will be here before you know it and now is the time to get your home ready. Whether clearing leaves from gutters, hanging holiday decorations or tackling indoor chores,  ladder safety should be top of mind for any seasonal preparation list.  

“Accidents can happen and the injuries are not always minor. Falls from a ladder can result in a serious injury or trauma,” said Todd Swenning, MD, FAAOS, orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in trauma and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “The good news is, that with the proper precautions, planning and equipment, many falls can be prevented. What’s important to remember is that even the most mundane or simple task using a ladder can cause strain, injury or a fall if not executed correctly.”

In 2018, more than 493,500 ladder-related injuries were treated in emergency departments, doctors’ offices and clinics, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). To help curb these statistics and prevent ladder injuries this fall, orthopaedic surgeons at the AAOS provide the following safety tips:

When cleaning gutters or hanging wreaths, choose the correct ladder.

  • Use a ladder of proper length to reach the working height that you need. Inside a home, that may mean a low stepladder. For outside chores, you may need a taller stepladder.
  • Use a ladder according to use and “working load” – The amount of weight the ladder can hold, including yourself and any tools or decorations.
  • Do not stand higher than two steps down from the top. On an extension ladder, do not stand above the third rung.
  • Shift the ladder as needed during the task to avoid the need to overreach. Leaning too far to one side, and reaching too far overhead, can make you lose your balance and fall. Your belly button should not go beyond the sides of the ladder.

Inspect the ladder before using it.

  • Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs and ensure there are no broken or bent pieces. Clean off any mud, grease, oil, snow or other slippery liquids that might have accumulated on the ladder.
  • Do not make a temporary repair of broken or missing parts because these repairs could fail while you are high off the ground.

Ensure the ladder is properly setup.

  • Take time to stage the ladder properly on even ground, staying away from electrical wires, tree limbs, or any other obstructions.
  • Confirm the stepladder is fully open and that the spreaders or braces between the two sections are fully extended and locked.
  • Make sure the soles of your shoes are not slippery and always wear closed toes shoes, rather than sandals or flip-flops.
  • Face the ladder while climbing and stay in the center of the rails. Grip both rails securely while climbing.

For more ladder-safety tips visit,

About the AAOS
With more than 39,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is the world’s largest medical association of musculoskeletal specialists. The AAOS is the trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal health. It provides the highest quality, most comprehensive education to help orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals at every career level best treat patients in their daily practices. The AAOS is the source for information on bone and joint conditions, treatments and related musculoskeletal health care issues and it leads the health care discussion on advancing quality.

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Deanna Killackey 


Lauren Riley