Mastering Ladder Safety Practices

Date: April 30, 2024

Mike Monell, Risk Control Consultant

Ensuring Your Safety at Every Step

When working at heights, ladder safety is imperative to prevent accidents and injuries. Continue reading to learn our best practices to stay safe at every step.

Ensure Physical Ability

A person must be able to carry out the physical tasks for each type of ladder.

Use the Right Ladder for the Job

When selecting a ladder for your task, determine if you need a step ladder or an extension ladder. Ensure it has the appropriate load capacity. Consider not only your weight but also the weight of the equipment, tools, and materials you will be carrying. Choose a ladder with a duty rating and weight capacity that aligns with the job performed. Avoid overloading the ladder, as this can compromise your safety. Make sure step ladders are long enough to work from without using the top 3 feet to avoid instability. Remember, never stand on the top step or top cap of a step ladder. Make sure extension ladders are secured and extend at least three feet above the landing platform. Avoid using a ladder horizontally as a makeshift platform as this can be extremely dangerous. Always use ladders for their intended purpose and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Check the Ladder for Damages Before and After Each Use

When inspecting a ladder for safety, it is crucial to check for various signs of damage or wear. Look for structural damage, such as split or bent side rails, broken rungs, or loose rails and braces. These issues can compromise the stability and pose a significant safety risk. Additionally, look for grease, dirt, or other contaminants that could lead to slips and falls. It is essential to ensure the ladder's rungs, rails, and braces are in good condition to prevent accidents.

Additionally, be cautious of ladders that have been painted or have missing/worn safety/warning stickers. Paint may hide underlying damage or defects that could jeopardize the ladder's integrity. If any defects or issues are identified during the inspection, immediately take the ladder out of service and replace it with a safe and reliable alternative.

Set Up in a Safe Place

To ensure a safe environment, ensure the area around the ladder is uncluttered and free of any obstructions that could cause you to trip or lose your balance. Avoid placing the ladder near electrical wiring to prevent any potential electrocution hazards.

In high-traffic areas, consider protecting the ladder base with a barricade to prevent accidental collisions or disturbances while working at heights. Additionally, be mindful of nearby doors that may open toward you as you work on the ladder. Locking or blocking these doors can prevent them from swinging open unexpectedly and causing accidents.

Set Up on a Flat, Stable Surface

The ladder should never be placed on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases for additional height.

Check Ladder Stability

Place ladders on a firm and level surface. If the ground is soft or uneven, it is advisable to use stabilizers, leg levelers, anti-slip gutter guards, or wide boards to ensure stability and prevent accidents. It is also important not to move or shift the ladder while someone is on it or while equipment is placed on it, as this can lead to dangerous situations and potential injuries. Finally, if using a portable ladder like a step or combination, ensure the ladder is fully open and the spreaders and locking devices are engaged before use.

Apply the 1:4 Rule

When leaning ladders, such as extension ladders, the recommended angle for positioning the ladder is a 1:4 ratio. This means for every 4 feet in height, the base should be moved 1 foot out from the wall or structure it is resting against. For instance, when using a 20-foot ladder, the base should ideally be positioned approximately 5 feet away from the wall. This setup helps maintain stability and minimizes the risk of the ladder slipping or toppling over during use.

Climb and Descend with Caution

As you climb and descend, always face the ladder, keeping your body aligned. This position helps you maintain better balance and control throughout the process.

If you need to carry small items like hand tools, consider using holsters or pouches attached to your belt or clothing. This way, both of your hands can remain securely on the ladder.

Always Maintain Three-Points of Contact

To ensure stability and balance while climbing a ladder, maintain contact with at least three-points of contact. This can be achieved by using two hands and one foot or by using two feet and one hand on the ladder rungs. Move slowly and avoid sudden movements.

Never Lean or Reach Away from the Ladder

Leaning and reaching away from the ladder while using it can significantly increase the risk of instability and falling. To prevent falls, we recommend descending from the ladder and repositioning it.

Provide Comprehensive and Frequent Training

Training workers to recognize ladder-related hazards is crucial in minimizing accidents in the workplace. By utilizing a checklist, you can help remind your team to adhere to basic safety procedures when working with ladders. Pre-start meetings and site walk-throughs are effective ways to ensure that proper ladder setup and climbing methods are being followed by all employees.

It is also important to implement a company ladder safety program to formalize safety protocols and guidelines. This program should be regularly reviewed and updated to address new hazards or best practices.

By mastering ladder safety practices, you can create a safer working environment and reduce the risks of working at heights. We are here to help you run a safer operation. For more safety-related information, contact your local Risk Control Consultant. Click the button below to find an agent near you.


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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.


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