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05 Jul 2023

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Unsafe ladder use is a leading cause of workplace accidents. To help ensure you don’t injure yourself or others while using one, we’ve put together this handy list of essential ladder safety rules.


1. Choose the right ladder

Before starting any task, you need to make sure you’ve got the right equipment: you can’t chop wood with a spanner. It’s the same with ladders. If you’re changing an overhead lightbulb, you probably just need a small step stool or domestic step ladder. If you’re working on the outside of a building or a roof, you might need a roof ladder or even a scaffold tower.


2. Inspect your ladder regularly

Probably the most important of our ladder safety rules is this: keep the ladder in good condition. Before you use it, have a look to make sure it isn’t damaged or rusty, and check that all its parts are in good working order. If you’re only using the ladder once every so often, check it whenever you use it. If you use it more than once a week, an in-depth inspection should be conducted roughly two to four times a year. For more information, see How Often Should Ladders Be Inspected?


3. Check your surroundings

Ideally, the ladder should be standing on solid ground and never on a movable object like a platform or pallet. If the ground is uneven, soft, or slippery, you may need to use rubber mats under the ladder feet to keep the ladder stable. Ensure the area is free from loose material and as clean as possible.

Other hazards to look out for include electrical or overhead wiring; doorways; roads and traffic; other people in the vicinity.

The weather can also be a hazard. If it is windy or raining, it could easily become too dangerous to work on a ladder. Read more about working in windy conditions here.


4. Secure the ladder

For ladders with locking mechanisms, ensure they are fully engaged. Other ladders lean against a surface, in which case you should secure the ladder by tying or hooking it in place.

Make sure the ladder is positioned correctly using the 4:1 rule: for every four units up, the ladder should be one unit out. So, if your task is at a height of 4m, the ladder should be out 1m away from the wall so that the top of it meets its resting point at a 75-degree angle. For more information, see Ladder Angle: What is the ‘1 in 4’ Rule?


5. Take your time

Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to ladder safety. Rushing up or down is very unsafe.


6. Maintain three points of contact

Maintain three points of contact with the ladder. Ideally this should be two feet and a hand, but if you need to use both hands, using your chest or knees can help stabilise you. When carrying something up or down, try to attach it to your person rather than holding it in one hand so that you can maintain three points of contact while climbing.


7. Don't overreach

Keep your body centred between the side rails while on the ladder. Don’t overreach as this may cause the ladder to wobble and tip over, which can lead to a fall. Try to position the ladder so that you are facing the task straight-on. Twisting on the rungs could easily destabilise you and cause an accident. It is better to climb down and reposition the ladder if necessary.


8. Wear suitable clothing

Depending on the working conditions, you may need to wear protective clothing or PPE when using a ladder. Consider the situation carefully and make sure you’re dressed appropriately before you start work.


Ladders are a very useful tool in almost any environment. But be careful: not following these ladder safety rules can cause serious injuries or worse. Here at Ladders UK Direct, we’ve got ladders for every occasion, and we want to make sure you feel safe using them.

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