SUNDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Simple precautions will help keep you safe and healthy when you're using a ladder to prepare the house for winter or put up holiday decorations, experts say.

Between 2000 and 2003, an estimated 17,500 people were treated in U.S. emergency departments for holiday decorating-related falls, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. About 43 percent of those injuries were caused by falls from ladders.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following ladder safety tips:

  • Set the ladder on a firm, level surface. Never place it in soft, muddy spots or on uneven ground or flooring.
  • Keep the bottom of the ladder one foot away from the wall for every four feet of height.
  • Use the proper ladder for the job. When working at low or medium heights, use step stools or utility ladders. Extension ladders are good for use outdoors to reach high places.
  • When standing on a ladder, be careful when pushing or pulling items from shelves or handling materials such as holiday lights and decorations. Always position the ladder close to the work area to reduce the risk of losing your balance and falling.
  • Never use a stepladder's top or pail shelf as a seat. These aren't designed to hold your weight.

More information

The U.S. National Safety Council offers holiday safety tips.