Staying Safe With Ladders – The Top Five Rules


Image via Flickr creative commons from thisreidwrites

Ladders can be dangerous. The first thing you need to know is that all ladders are weight rated – do not exceed this limit. They are one of the most common agents involved in falls from height and account for more than a quarter of all falls.

Before doing anything, you have to make sure you have the right ladder for the job – companies such as Slingsby Ladders have a wide range for every need.

Reaching something in the centre of the room will obviously require something along the lines of a stepladder. If you are cleaning gutters, an extension ladder might be the right one for you. There are even specialty ladders which bend to help you get to hard-to-reach place – but they are probably for the more advanced worker.

The different types of ladders are designed to keep you safe. Using the wrong one or ignoring some important safety tips can result in a trip to the hospital – or potentially something more serious.


Before going up your ladder – whether it is a lean-to or a stepladder – you should make sure it is all in good working order. Make sure the legs are secure and the ladder feet are not worn-down and attached correctly. Also, wear shoes with non-slip soles.

As pointed out by the government’s health and safety division, the ground should also be firm and level. The maximum safe ground side slope is 16 degrees and you should check this with a spirit level once the rungs are in place. The maximum safe back slope is six degrees. You should then have a strong upper resting point – not plastic guttering – and the floor you are resting the ladder on should be clean and not slippery.

The 1-4 rule

If climbing a ladder isn’t something you do regularly you may not be familiar with how dangerous it can be if not angled properly. Here you have to remember the four to one rule. For every four feet of height you have to climb, move the base one foot away from the wall. A good rule of thumb is also to never stand less than three rungs from the top of a stepladder and four from the top of an extension ladder.

Height is also important for stepladders. If using one to get on a roof, it is best if the ladder extends around three feet beyond it.

Don’t overdo it

You should keep work to a short duration – half an hour at the very most. When working with a ladder, do not carry overly heavy loads. Up to 10kg is the most you should consider. Move materials with extreme caution so as not to lose your balance and don’t exceed the maximum weight of a ladder.

Never overreach, keep both feet on one rung while working and make sure the majority of your waist stays within the stiles at all times. A good way to measure this is to keep your navel or belt buckle in between.


Make sure you keep your ladder in top condition, even if you are not using it regularly. There are various things you should look out for with each type of ladder. All should be inspected for broken or frozen joints or latches.

Aluminium ladders should be checked regularly for cracks or broken welds. Before the first use look out for burrs and rough spots. If you are using a wooden ladder, make sure you are inspecting for cracked wood, splinters and rot.

Wood ladders can be protected with linseed oil or clear sealant, but never paint a wooden ladder. It can hide imperfections.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re not sure, or wary of the height you may have to climb, you should always get someone to help by holding the base of the ladder.

If you’re still not certain, get a professional to do it. It may not be as cheap, but it will be safer.


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