Ladder Safety on the Job

Falls happen when you lose your balance. Standing on makeshift supports and using ladders incorrectly can cause you to fall. Using the wrong equipment for a task can also increase your chances of being hurt.

Watch for hazards

  • Makeshift supports. Makeshift supports are never quite right for the job. And they're not safe. For instance, don't stand on top of a trash can or chair instead of a stepstool or ladder. This raises your risk of falling and hurting yourself. Never make a short ladder taller by putting something under the legs. And be careful not to overreach. This can shift your center of gravity and make you lose your balance.

  • Incorrect use of ladders. Using equipment incorrectly is a common fall hazard. Ladders can pose major risks if used incorrectly. If you set a ladder too close or too far from a building, you're more likely to fall off of it. Other causes of falls include setting the ladder on loose, uneven ground. Or using a tall ladder by yourself without securing it. And never stand on the top of a stepladder. Also never use an extension ladder that's too short.

Use the right equipment and use it right

  • Find out what you need ahead of time.

  • Follow safety warnings on equipment.

  • Keep yourself centered over your support. This helps you keep your balance.

  • Keep your arms and legs as close to your center of gravity as possible (don't overreach).

  • Choose the right ladder for the job.

  • Do not use a metal stepladder near power lines or electrical equipment.

  • Do not tie 2 ladders together to make them longer.

  • Do not exceed the ladder’s maximum load rating.

Follow ladder safety rules

  • Inspect the ladder before using it. Look for any signs of damage. These include cracks, rust, or missing rungs.

  • Use the 1 to 4 rule. The base of the ladder needs to be placed 1 foot out from its support for every 4 feet of ladder length.

  • Set and secure the ladder on stable ground.

  • Have someone hold the base of the ladder. The base of the ladder should be secured.

  • Never use the top rung.

  • Wear correct footwear, such as nonslip flat shoes.

  • Make sure the ladder is fully extended before starting work.

  • Have 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times.

  • Do not carry any tools or materials in your hands when climbing a ladder. Carry them in a tool belt. Or raise tools up using a handline.

  • Stay near the middle of the ladder and face the ladder while climbing up or down.

  • Do not ignore nearby overhead power lines.

  • Position portable ladders (also called extension ladders) so that side rails extend at least 3 feet above the landing.

  • Keep ladders free of any slippery materials.

  • Prevent tipping the ladder over sideways or causing the ladder base to slide out.

Man standing on ladder leaning against wall. Second man on ground holding ladder steady.

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