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19 Jul 2023

 Extension Ladder Safety Tips - extension ladder leaning against the exterior of a multistorey house

An extension ladder is a great way of gaining extra height. But that extra height comes with extra risks, so here are some essential extension ladder safety tips.


Safety Checks Before Using an Extension Ladder

Undertaking a risk assessment is always a good idea when you're using a ladder.

Firstly, make sure the environment is safe. Are there cables overhead? Is the ground firm? What’s the weather like?

Always make sure you set the ladder up on solid ground. Never put the ladder on a platform! If the ground is soft, slippery, uneven, or in any way unstable, you may be able to use rubber mats to help stabilise the ladder. If you’re using the ladder outside and the weather is particularly wet or windy, you may have to stop working on the ladder. We have a separate safety guide with more tips on working in windy conditions.

Make sure your ladder is made out of the right material: for working around sources of electricity, choose a fibreglass ladder. Otherwise, you can use an aluminium ladder.

You should then inspect your ladder carefully to make sure it’s in good condition for the job at hand. Do a quick visual inspection whenever you use it, and carry out detailed inspections every few months. We have more information on ladder inspections here.

It’s also vital to make sure you won’t exceed the ladder’s weight limit. Extension ladders typically have a maximum load of 150kg, which should be fine if you’re only cleaning a roof or fixing an upper-floor window. But if you overload the ladder, it could fall or collapse beneath you.

Always ensure you have the right height of ladder for the job. Over-reaching while on a ladder is very dangerous, so it’s best to make sure the ladder extends beyond where you are working by at least 1 metre. That way, everything should remain stable while you work. To maximise stability, abide by the 1-in-4 rule when setting up: for every 4 feet of height, position the base of the ladder 1 foot away from the wall.

Ensure the upper resting point is strong – don’t rest the ladder against a weak surface like plastic gutters. Once this is sorted, secure the ladder. This may involve tying it to the resting point, or using any stabilisers that came with the ladder. Make sure the ladder is fully extended and adjusted appropriately before using it – do not attempt to adjust or extend the ladder while you’re on it!


Safe Use of an Extension Ladder

The safest way to use any ladder is to maintain three points of contact as much as possible. If you cannot maintain a handhold, leaning against the ladder with your chest should help. Using a tool belt to carry your tools will keep your hands free to hold on to the ladder. Grip the ladder firmly and face the rungs while climbing up or down.

You should also make sure your centre of gravity stays between the ladder’s side rails. Don’t lean too far to one side - you could unbalance yourself and fall. Try to make sure the ladder is positioned so that your task is directly in front of you. It’s safer to re-position the ladder than to try and reach or twist around for the task.

It’s also worth making sure you’re wearing the right clothing. This doesn’t just mean a hard hat and hi-vis jacket, but also extends to wearing appropriate shoes.

Explore our other ladder safety blogs for more top tips on staying safe while working at height.

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