Ladder Safety – How to Use a Ladder Correctly

ladder safety

Using a ladder is something that on the surface seems very simple: and in fact, it is. Nonetheless, various reports show that up to 250,000 people each year don’t follow ladder safety rules and are admitted to hospitals for treatment from ladder-related injuries. A quarter of these accidents occur in the workplace.

Due to these alarming figures, it is important that companies ensure that employees are made aware of the safe and proper way to use a ladder.

This article discusses how to use step and extension ladders correctly.

Ladder Safety – How to Properly use a Step Ladder

Step ladders usually come in one of three sizes: 4 feet tall, 6 feet tall, and 8 feet tall. Irrespective of the size of your step ladder, the safety advice is the same.

You should always make sure that the ladder is placed on an even surface. When opening the step ladder, ensure that the two hinged metal bars are locked down correctly and straight.

Many people will use a ladder by leaning it against a wall, assuming it is stable enough for use. The reality is that it isn’t, and it’s very likely that the ladder will slip from underneath you.

When using the ladder, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Make sure that you don’t stand on the paint shelf when climbing the ladder, and you should also avoid standing or sitting on the uppermost step of the ladder; manufacturers themselves recommend that you don’t use anything higher than the third-highest step.

Also, make sure that your hips are between the two rails since leaning too far one way or the other can topple the ladder.

You should also never climb up the reverse side of a ladder, nor should you allow two people to use a ladder at the same time; if you have work to do that requires this, consider getting a two-person ladder, which is engineered differently to make doing this safe.  

When moving the ladder, make sure you have removed any tools you had put down on it. A common factor in ladder-related injuries is due to the risk of falling tools.

Finally, make sure that you don’t leave a ladder which is set up unattended. If you are finished working, or you are taking a longer break, take the ladder down or lie it down. This is particularly important if children are nearby.

How to Properly Use an Extension Ladder

Extension ladders are used to reach higher areas. They’re the kind of ladder you see being used by window cleaners, or when someone is working on a roof.

Since these ladders are taller, they increase the chance of you suffering an injury if you don’t use them properly. They should not be positioned anywhere near power lines (metal ladders, unfortunately, act as great conductors), and neither should they be set up on uneven surfaces, or ones covered in ice, mud, or snow.

When setting up an extension ladder, it should first be laid flat on the ground with its legs braced against the wall that you will be climbing up. The ladder should be lifted until it is almost vertical, at which point its base should be walked away from the wall to set the angle.

To safely position the ladder, you should plan out the area measuring a ratio of 4:1 in terms of the height of ladder to determine distance from the wall, e.g. if the ladder is 16 feet tall, its base should be 4 feet away from the building wall.

The ladder will have a rope attached, which, when pulled, will raise a portion of the ladder known as the fly. Once this is at the height you need the ladder to be, make sure that both rungs are hooked securely to another rung, then tie off the rope.

Beyond the setup, most of the advice is the same as when using a step ladder. Keep your hips within the vertical rails of the ladder so as not to unbalance it, and make sure you face it when ascending or descending.

You should keep any tools attached to a tool belt so that you can use both hands to climb the ladder and make sure you don’t stand above the 4th highest rung when working at height. This helps maintain balance and minimises the risk of your weight pulling you off the ladder.

Working at heights requires a common-sense approach backed by knowledge of health and safety techniques that vary depending upon the sector.

TutorCare offer over 15 working at height awareness courses. Ranging from general Ladder Awareness to ladder and stepladder inspection training the courses look at all aspects of ladder safety. New courses are also now available for Rooftop Awareness (how to identify safe and unsafe rooftops; understand potential hazards and how to prevent them), Scaffold Inspection training, and Gantry Crane Training.

Training on Mobile platform safety and Mobile Elevating Work Platforms are also available through our IPAF training and PASMA Management courses.

Ladder Safety Further Reading

HSE – Working at Height and the Law

What employers need to know about working at height

Training Article  A quick look at retail licensing qualifications

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