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Tim Forestell
December 7, 2020

There are a number of holiday stories – horror stories, mostly – about people trying to put up Christmas lights or decorations on a 12-foot ladder. Reaching too far, putting the ladder on ice or using a 30+ year old ladder that you’ve always had can quickly turn dangerous. Slips, falls, crashes and close-calls can turn a happy holiday into a painful one.

someone on ladder hanging festive lighting

study of 10-years worth of Christmas related injuries found that an overwhelming majority of them involve ladders or stools. Most E.R. visits happened the first week of December – when a majority of people put up decorations. Head contusions, cuts and sprains are the leading injuries, most of them happening on the head and face. In 2016 in Canada alone, over 10,000 people went to the hospital in December after falling while putting up decorations.

The Common Fall: A Seasonal Challenge

There are a few reasons that fall injuries are so common during the holiday season. These have to do with the season itself and with the tools people use when decorating. 

Many people try to put their Christmas lights and decorations up early to avoid the bad weather. Unfortunately, many people simply don’t have the time or just forget to get their decorations up early. The weather can also be very unpredictable as the snow and cold can creep up on us. Either way, the amount of people that end up stringing lights or hanging garlands in the snow is quite high.

The Issue with Ladders

For the general homeowner, a ladder may only get pulled out every so often – probably mainly at the beginning of the holiday season and then again at the end of it. Ladders should last a while if they’re stored properly and taken care of. But like with any piece of equipment, things can go wrong.

Ladders should be safety-checked before being used – especially after they’ve been sitting in a garage or shed for 7 months.

Proper Ladder Use

In order to be used properly, there should be three rungs left at the top of the ladder that isn’t being used.  In fact, OSHA regulations state that at least 42 inches, or just over 1 meter, of ladder should be left above the access level or landing space for the ladder itself. One of the biggest challenges with issues is that people try to use a ladder that is too short for the height they are trying to reach. 

It should be leaned against a sturdy rail, wall, or other support at about a 75-degree angle and not directly up and down. Another rule that is often followed is the 4-to-1 Rule: The base of the ladder should be 1 foot away from the building for every 4 feet of height to where the ladder is resting against the building.

What To Look for When Inspecting a Ladder

  • Missing or loose rungs or steps
  • Damaged or worn non-slip feet on the bottom of the ladder
  • Loose nails, screws, bolts or nuts
  • Rot, decay or warping on wooden ladders
  • Cracks or exposed fibreglass in fibreglass ladders
  • Loose or faulty spreaders or locks
  • Any metal parts that are rusted, corroded, oxidized or in poor condition
  • Distortion or twisted rails

And while it may seem obvious, never use a wobbly ladder or any ladder with obvious broken or bent metal parts.

The Man Lift: The Ladder Alternative

While scissor lifts and man lifts are not often associated with homeowners or Christmas time, they can actually provide a safer, more stable environment for hanging Christmas decorations or lights. 

For hanging lights and other tasks that require a bit more movement, an articulated boom lift would be more fitting than a scissor lift. Scissor lifts could helpful for interior decoration or hanging anything from a tall ceiling 

Scissor lifts only go up and down while articulating boom lifts provide some horizontal and lateral movement. It’s important to think about what it is you need a lift for and choose the correct lift accordingly.

Person hanging lights with a scissor lift

The Safe and Affordable Way 

Renting a man lift can be an affordable way to get Christmas lights and decorations up safely. Not only do weekly rental prices start with just a few hundred dollars, but the added space and at-height work platform can expedite the decorating process. 

The best piece of advice, however, when it comes to putting up or taking down decorations in the snow is to use some type of tool or equipment – be it ladder or man lift. Climbing directly onto the roof is only safe before any frost or snow comes. Slips and falls from a ladder can be bad, but ones from a roof could be even worse.

Christmas Decoration Projects That Could Benefit from a Man Lift

Houses with pointed roofs, tall trees, and even interior spaces in office buildings, event halls, churches, schools or any other type of building can benefit from using a man lift over a ladder.

People hanging lights on a tree using a man lift

A Community Experience

If you aren’t sure if renting a lift for your house is worth it, consider making it a neighbourhood holiday tradition. If a few neighbours come together to rent a lift for a few days or a week, the cost is definitely worth it. Not only is it a great way to help connect to neighbours during the holiday season but it also keeps everyone near you safe. 

A Safe and Happy Holiday

With companies like DOZR making equipment rentals more accessible, working smarter is easier than ever. This holiday season, think twice before you rely on your 30-year-old wobbly ladder and think about other ways you can stay safe this holiday season. Whether it’s renting a man lift for Christmas decorating or simply investing in a ladder that is a proper height and would pass an inspection, it’s easy to stay safe. This way everyone can be happy at home for the holidays.

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Avatar of the author
Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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