Ladder safety

Ladder safety: Climb safely

It’s true that ladders have come a long way since their first use about 10,000 years ago, and presumably so has knowledge about ladder safety. But just in case some remnants of the Mesolithic-era brain linger, before you climb up a ladder to hang drywall or clean gutters, refresh your knowledge of how to use a ladder safely.

According the American Ladder Institute, there are a handful of ladder safety rules to pay attention to before you begin your climb.

Before you use your ladder

Pick the ladder that’s the right for the job. 

The duty rating of the ladder must be greater than the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies, and other objects placed on the ladder.

Inspect your ladder

Confirm it is in good working condition. And read the safety information labels on the ladder — They’re there for a reason.

Make sure your ladder is on firm, level ground

If know it will be resting on an uneven surface, there’s a ladder for that, so get the right one for the job.

Check doors and windows

Do not put ladders in front of doors or windows that open toward the ladder.  Prop the door open, make sure it’s locked, or post a guard at it.

Avoid electrical hazards

Look above for power lines overhead. Avoid using a metal later near power lines.

While using a ladder

Wear proper footwear

Wear slip-resistant shoes that are clean so they have better traction. Shoes with leather soles are not appropriate for ladder use. 

Only one person at a time

If more than one person needs to be on the ladder, there are ladders for that, too.

Use the “three points of contact” rule

Face the ladder and always have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in contact with the ladder steps, rung, and/or side rails at all times.

Do not use ladders in high winds or storms

Sure you might discover a hole in the roof during a rainstorm, but bust out the buckets instead of climbing up there to do a patch job.

Do not use the top rung or step of the ladder

OSHA recommends that you do not use the top step or rung of a ladder as a step or rung unless it was designed that way. If it's an extension or straight ladder, do not stand on the top three rungs. OSHA also states that an extension or straight latter accessing an elevated surface must extend at least three feet above the point of support. If you need to get higher, get a taller ladder.

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Updated 8/21