At Work At Home On the Road

Ladder Safety One Rung at a Time

  • ​Even the thought of climbing a ladder (unless it's the corporate ladder, of course) can be scary for some people. The potential for falls and serious injury is enough for many homeowners to leave the gutter cleaning and holiday decorating to the pros.

    But if you're a do-it-yourselfer, or you have to reach a high cabinet or replace a bulb in a ceiling fixture, you're probably going to use a ladder. Just be sure to follow these ladder safety precautions. They apply whether climbing ladders at work or at home.

    Choose the Right Ladder


    Using the wrong ladder can be dangerous. Think about the task at hand, choose the right size and style, and be sure to follow the directions on the ladder before you climb. Some things to consider:

    • How high do you need to reach?
    • How much weight will the ladder need to hold?
    • Is it an indoor or outdoor job?


    Start with a Firm Foundation


    No matter what kind of ladder you're using, place the base on a firm, solid surface and avoid slippery, wet or soft surfaces.

    • If you must put the ladder on a soft surface, place a board under the ladder's feet
    • Never lean a straight or extension ladder against a window pane or other unstable surface
    • A straight or extension ladder should be placed 1 foot away from the surface it's resting on for every 4 feet of the ladder's height
    • Securely fasten straight or extension ladders to an upper support
    • Make sure step ladders are open completely before climbing
    • Guard doorways near any type of ladder so no one can open it and knock you off
    • Never place a ladder on a box, barrel or other object to gain additional height


    Climb with Care


    When people use ladders frequently at work or at home, they can run the risk of  becoming complacent. Make sure every time you step on a ladder you are mindful of the task at hand.

    • Face the ladder and always grip the rungs, not the side rails
    • Always keep three points of contact with the ladder: two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand
    • Never get off a ladder from the side
    • Make sure extension ladders extend 3 feet above the roof or platform you're trying to reach
    • Do not stand higher than the third rung from the top
    • Don't lean or overreach; reposition the ladder instead
    • Don't climb while carrying tools; use a tool belt
    • Wear slip-resistant shoes
    • Never have someone climb up to bring you something; only one person should be on a ladder at a time


    Consider the Conditions


    It may seem obvious that using a ladder during a storm is not a good idea, but we're going to mention it anyway.

    • Do not use extension ladders in windy or inclement weather
    • If bad weather arises, climb down immediately and wait for it to pass
    • Clean the ladder after each use to prevent dirt buildup, especially if it's left outside in wet or muddy conditions


    You can find more ladder safety resources from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Ladder Institute.

    Statistics on Ladder Injury


    In 2013, 175,790 people were injured on ladders severely enough to require a trip to the hospital. Nearly 20,000 people were injured and 133 died due to falls from a ladder or scaffolding at work, according to Injury Facts 2016. Workers in the construction industry are most at risk.

    Of all occupational injuries, falls are the second leading cause of death next to highway crashes. Fatal falls to a lower level typically involve injuries to the head or multiple body parts.

    To bring greater attention to this problem, The National Safety Council supports the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in its Fall Safety Stand-Down. For more information on ladder safety at work, visit OSHA's website. ​

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