Today's fall protection and staging systems create a safer workplace for the remodeler on the job.
I'll never forget an experience that made me realize the importance of safety systems. In the dead of a Vermont winter, a helper and I climbed onto a roof to install a skylight. He lost his footing, tumbled down the roof, and knocked me backwards off a ladder. Fortunately, we landed in a snow bank. I walked away uninjured. My helper walked away with a broken finger. We were both lucky. Here are a few systems that can help prevent catastrophic mishaps on your jobs.
Paired articulating ladders. With a sturdy plank between them, these ladders are a good choice for working indoors when differences in floor heights make you think you're working on rugged terrain. Fold or extend these clever ladders to compensate for tricky conditions, such as working in a stairwell. Wing Little Giant, a heavy-duty model, has been around for years. Werner Aluminum Multi-Master Articulated Ladder is another product, available at about half the price.
MonoJacks or WallWalkers. They're great for working outside at a fixed elevation. MonoJacks' telescoping scaffold system has legs that can be set independently of each other -- ideal for uneven ground. The tubular legs hold the jacks against the wall. You adjust them in 6-inch increments or by moving the leg closer to or away from the wall. WallWalkers are suited for working at the top of a wall section, either setting joists for the next floor, installing fascia and soffit, or laying roof sheathing and shingling. The adjustable bracket hangs over the top plate.
Bodyguard Rail. One of the most versatile safety systems, it's welded from 12-gauge steel and finished with powder coat paint. The manufacturer offers six configurations -- basic rail, platform, roofer's, C-clamp, wall-mount, and truss setter. They'll provide all the fall protection you need, whether you're atop a foundation wall or on a roof. For example, the C-clamp model hangs over parapets -- ideal for foundation walls built near a precipice -- while the roofer's system provides fall protection when shingling. Accessories allow a remodeler to buy one system and adapt it to other uses. A separate C-clamp converts a basic system so it can be used on parapets. There's also a foot attachment, which slides up under asphalt shingles. The foot can be removed without damaging the shingles or leaving telltale nail holes.
Fall protection equipment won't immunize you against accidents. You'll still need a good dose of common sense to avoid careless setups. But just knowing you have more than a snow bank to stop you should enable you to work more confidently and safely. --Lee McGinley, CR, a Big 50 remodeler, has written for the Journal of Light Construction. He lives in Addison, Vt.