June 18 2015


Every year, large numbers of workers are seriously injured whilst using portable ladders. Ladder use is an activity that is carried out every day at many workplaces, which can lead to a sense of complacency and poor practices. Gravity usually always wins. As soon as you set foot on the ladder’s first rung and pull your body off the ground, gravity works to bring you back to earth.

Proper ladder setup will help prevent slips and falls. Always inspect your ladder prior to use, looking for signs of damage or wear. Place the base on a firm, solid surface. Avoid slippery, wet or soft surfaces. If you must put the ladder on a soft surface, place a board under the ladder’s feet to provide firm footing. Make sure the top of the ladder has firm support and you secure or tie off extension ladders.

Never lean a ladder against a window pane or other unstable surface. If you’re using a straight or extension ladder, the angle of the ladder is the next critical safety factor. A straight or extension ladder should be placed with the “1 to 4 rule”. Ensure that for every 4 metres in height the ladder extends, the base (or feet) of the ladder is 1 meter away from the support structure.

If you use a ladder to access a roof or platform, make sure the top of the ladder extends at least 1 metre above the roof or platform edge. Be sure to securely fasten straight and extension ladders to an upper support. If you have angled the ladder properly and still have doubts about its stability, have someone hold the ladder before climbing up.

If you’re using a step ladder, be sure to open it completely before you climb and check the locking/support mechanism. If you use a step ladder near a doorway, lock or barricade the door and post signs so no one will open it and knock you off the ladder.

When climbing, always face the ladder and grip the rungs of the ladder to climb, not the side rails. Never get on or off a ladder from the side unless it has been secured to prevent movement. Never climb with equipment in your hands. Use your pockets, equipment belt, or a tool pouch and raise heavy objects with a hand line. If you forget something, always climb down the ladder to retrieve it yourself; don’t have someone toss it up to you.

When you descend a ladder, practice the same safety rules. Face the ladder, keep your body square and hold on to the rungs. Lastly, step off at the bottom rung of the ladder. Never jump off of a ladder.

Ladder safety may seem simple, but many injuries occur every year. Below are some ladder safety dos and don’ts:

  • Do use the right ladder for the job (industrial or tradesman rated).
  • Do inspect the ladder before and after a job.
  • Do read all warning labels carefully and follow directions before you climb.
  • Do clean the ladder after each use to prevent dirt build up.
  • Do wear clean, dry, slip-resistant shoes and use ladders with slip resistant feet.
  • Don’t stand any higher than the third rung from the top of the ladder.
  • Don’t lean too far or overreach. Reposition the ladder closer to the work instead.
  • Don’t use a ladder as a bridge or scaffold.
  • Don’t put a ladder on a box, crate or other object to gain additional height.
  • Don’t use a damaged or unsafe ladder.

For more information on this topic or any other OSH inquiry, please do not hesitate to contact Safety Solutions WA.