House & Home

18 Steps to Ladder Safety

Posted January 27, 2015

Ladder safety would seem to be a matter of common sense. However, among construction professionals, high importance is placed on teaching workers the correct procedures for minimization of risks to life and limb while using a ladder. Lost-time injuries and even fatalities due to ladder-related accidents are disturbingly widespread. As a home handyman, you can learn a lesson from the pros; follow these 18 basic ladder usage tips to work safe.

Basic Ladder Safety Tips:

  1. Don't replace a ladder with a straightback or, even worse, a swivel chair.
  2. Make sure that your ladder is in good shape, without any treads that are worn, loose, or missing. Other parts to check include the feet, stiles, platform, and locking mechanism.
  3. The manufacturer's instructions and warning labels are attached to the ladder for a reason. Read and follow them.
  4. Make sure that your body weight, together with your tools, does not exceed the ladder's duty rating (maximum load capacity).
  5. The treads of your ladder should be clean and free of grease, oil, or mud, as should your shoes.
  6. Your footgear should also have non-skid soles (not leather, which tends to be too slick).
  7. Set up your ladder so that all of its feet are resting firmly on level ground or other solid, immoveable surface such as a concrete floor. Avoid potentially slippery substances like spilled food or sand.
  8. Don't climb if you are faint, dizzy, or off-balance or under the influence of alcohol or sedative drugs (whether prescription or non-prescription). If you begin feeling overtired or unwell while you are atop the ladder, come down and take a break.
  9. If you will be using a stepladder to, say, clean the gutters or inspect your roof, always let someone else know of your plans.
  10. When working with an extension ladder, get a buddy's assistance for two reasons: to help carry a heavy ladder and to hold the bottom of the ladder steady while you are climbing. However, never allow a second person on the ladder with you. An extension ladder longer than 16' should be secured at its top or its base.
  11. Open your ladder fully and make sure the locking mechanism is engaged.
  12. Maintain a balanced position on the ladder. Do not climb past the second rung from the top on a stepladder or the fourth rung on an extension ladder and don't lean too far to the left or right. (The general guideline is to make sure your belt buckle stays between the side rails of the ladder.) Keep at least three points of contact with the ladder at all times -- either both hands and one foot or vice versa.
  13. Ensure that your hands are free while you are ascending and descending the ladder. Carry tools and other essentials on a belt designed for that purpose, or use a lift to raise and lower them.
  14. If you position your ladder in front of a door or window, make sure that the opening is securely locked to avoid being suddenly pushed off balance.
  15. Two pieces of equipment that are too dangerous to use while standing on a ladder are a pressure washer and a roof rake.
  16. Use a non-conductive wooden or fiberglass ladder when working around electrical power lines or equipment, rather than an aluminum one.
  17. Close and put away the ladder as soon as you are finished with it.
  18. Never allow children to play on or around a ladder.

Laura Firszt writes for

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