10 Ladder Safety Rules

employee taking safety measures with ladders

Published 13 May 2022

Ladders are great pieces of equipment. Nearly everyone has one at home or in the workplace. However, it may pose a threat to an individual’s safety if not used correctly.

According to Safe Work Australia, ladders should be used for simple access jobs for a short duration. Otherwise, an alternative can be used in place of a ladder such as scaffoldings or an elevated work platform. But if ladders are the only option, the following precautions should be taken:

10 Ladder Safety Rules

1. Choose the right ladder

Different types of ladders have different uses. Each ladder type have a different load rating. When choosing the most suitable ladder for the job, it is important to consider the weight of the person climbing the ladder plus the weight of the tools, materials, and equipment. Below are five categories of ladders with their duty rating and weight capacity: 

Ladder Type  Duty Rating Working Load (pounds)
IAA Special Duty 375
IA Extra Heavy Duty 300
I Heavy Duty 250
II Medium duty 225
III Light Duty 200

2. Check for damages or issues before each use

Over time a ladder may acquire issues that may lead to it being unreliable. A competent person should be assigned to visually inspect ladders for defects periodically. Below are some defects you should look out for: 

  • Structural damage, split/bent side rails, broken or loose rungs, steps, rails or braces. Other than that, loose screws, bolts, hinges, and other hardware parts
  • Grease, dirt, or other contaminants that can result to slips or falls.
  • Paint or stickers that might hide defects (Warning or safety labels not included). 

If a ladder has been identified with defects, it’s best to have it repaired or replaced.

3. Ensure physical capability of using a ladder

A person using a ladder should be someone who has the capability of carrying out physical tasks. Physical capability is usually measured by one’s grip strength, walking speed, chair rising, and standing balance times. Employees should train workers to recognize ladder-related hazards to minimize accidents. 

4. Set up the ladder on a flat and stable surface

Ladders should be placed on a firm and level surface for stability. The surface should be able to support the weight of the ladder and the person using it. In any case that the ground is soft, devices such as leg levelers, anti-slip gutter guards, wide boards, or stabilizers can be used. 

5. Set up in a safe place

It is important to be mindful of the surroundings when setting up a ladder. The surrounding area should be uncluttered and free of obstructions. If a ladder needs to be set up in a driveway or passageway, barriers and signages, or a person assisting should be present.

6. Never lean or reach away from the ladder

Leaning and reaching away when in the ladder makes it unstable and puts the person in the ladder at risk of falling. To prevent falls, descend and then move the ladder. 

7. Always maintain a three point of contact

When climbing or descending the ladder, the three points of contact should be observed for a secure handhold on the ladder. The three points of contact refers to two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.  

8. Only take small items up or down a ladder

Always consider the load limits of the ladder in use. Carrying anything larger or heavier than what the ladder can take will make it unstable. The person in the ladder will be unable to maintain a three point of contact resulting to a fall and injury. 

9. Apply the 1:4 rule

When using leaning ladders like an extension ladder, the position of the ladder should be angled at a ratio of 1:4. The base of the ladder being 1 meter away from the structure for every meter height of 4.

10. Climb down cautiously

Remain facing the ladder while maintaining the three points of contact when dissenting the ladder. Do it slowly; avoiding any sudden movements. 

Consider working at height and fall protection factors too to promote safety at work.