June, 2011
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Safety Tips to Prevent Ladder Injuries


Falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. The following safety precautions can help prevent injuries.

Use the best ladder for the job.

+  Use a ladder that is the proper length for the job. Proper length is a minimum of 3 feet extending over the roof line or working surface. The three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder should not be stood on.

+  Metal ladders will conduct electricity. Use a wooden or fiberglass ladder in the vicinity of power lines or electrical equipment. Do not let a ladder made from any material contact live electric wires.

+  All metal ladders should have slip-resistant feet.

Use the best ladder for you

+  Make sure the weight your ladder is supporting does not exceed its maximum duty rate, which is your weight, plus the weight of:

    – Your clothing and protective equipment; plus
    – Tools and supplies you are carrying; plus
    – Tools and supplies stored on the ladder.

+  There are five categories of ladder Duty Ratings:
    – Type IAA (Extra Heavy-Duty) 375 pounds
    – Type IA (Extra Heavy-Duty) 300 pounds
    – Type I (Heavy-Duty) 250 pounds
    – Type II (Medium-Duty) 225 pounds
    – Type III (Light-Duty) 200 pounds

Set up the ladder correctly

+  Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at about a 75-degree angle.

+  Be sure all locks on extension ladders are properly engaged.

+  The ground under the ladder should be level and firm. Large, flat wooden boards braced under the ladder can level a ladder on uneven ground or soft ground. A good practice is to have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder.

+  Do not place a ladder in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.

+  The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.

Use the ladder correctly

+  Keep your body centered between the rails of the ladder at all times. Do not lean too far to the side while working. Keep three points of contact with the ladder’s cleats and/or side rails when climbing up or coming down. (two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand).

+  There should be only one person at a time on a ladder.

+  Do not use a ladder for any purpose other than that for which it was intended.

+  Do not step on the top step, bucket shelf or attempt to climb or stand on the rear section of a stepladder.

+  Never leave a raised ladder unattended. 

+  Follow use instruction labels on ladders.