Ing + McKee

General Ladder Safety

December 21, 2022

Whether you’re at work or at home, you may find yourself needing to reach a space that you cannot access from the ground or floor. That’s what a ladder is for.

Basic ladder safety rules apply at work and at home. Here are some reminders to keep you safe when you’re using a ladder.

Selecting the right ladder

Choosing the right ladder for the task is critical. Portable ladders should always be at least 2 feet higher than what you need to reach. For example, a 6-foot ladder is designed for 4-foot-high work. That is because the top rung or platform of a portable ladder is not intended to be used as a step or to support your weight.

Also know the material the ladder is made from. Aluminum is lighter than wood or fiberglass, but it cannot be used around electrical lines.

Check the rating of the ladder. If, for example, the capacity is rated at 200 pounds and you weigh more than that, select a different ladder.

Lastly, visually inspect the ladder. Check that it is not damaged or deformed. Any deformity means that it has already been subject to damage and is not safe to use.

Positioning the ladder

Make sure the feet of the ladder are level and on a stable, nonslip surface. If the surface is uneven, you will need to use levelers or stabilizers manufactured for such use. Concrete or brick blocks, buckets or other types of makeshift leveling devices are not safe.

When placing a portable or extension ladder, use the 4:1 rule. For every 4 feet the ladder is raised, it should be 1 foot from the wall. This creates a stability triangle so you remain on the ladder as you climb up. Being too close or too far from the wall can cause the ladder to fall back or collapse forward as you climb.

Finally, if the ladder must be placed in a driveway, doorway or other high-traffic area, use a spotter or barricade or tape off the area. This will ensure other people see it and can avoid hitting or bumping you while you are on the ladder.

Climbing/descending the ladder

Always face the ladder and use three points of contact when climbing. Wear proper footwear to keep your feet from slipping on the rungs. Consider wearing grip gloves to maintain a secure hold while climbing or descending.

Finally, do not extend your arms beyond the side rails of the ladder when working at a height. Keep your body centered.

When used correctly, ladders can help you reach elevated work areas. Follow these practices to ensure your safety.

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