Ladders: Up, up, and safe

Ladders are such commonplace tools that it’s easy to forget how dangerous they can be. Falling from a household ladder easily can cause sprains, broken bones, or worse. Among reported household falls from ladders, one-fifth caused injuries severe enough to require hospitalization.  

Think before you climb. Make sure you:

      1. Choose the right ladder for the job,

      2. Set the ladder up properly, and

      3. Climb safely.

Here are a few reminders:

Choose the right ladder
The right ladder will have a duty rating or maximum load that exceeds the total weight of the climber and any tools that will be carried. Make sure it’s tall enough, too. An extension ladder or straight ladder should extend at least three feet above the upper point of support.

Never sit or stand on uppermost rungs, or you could lose your balance. Safety guidelines say users must stay below the third rung from the top of an extension ladder and the second step of a stepladder.

Step it up right
Stepladders are meant to be used in the open position. Don’t climb a closed stepladder or the back of the ladder.
Straight ladders should be positioned at approximately a 75-degree angle. To see if you have the proper positioning, stand up straight with your toes touching the feet of the ladder as it leans away from you. Extend your arms in front of you. Your palms should touch the top of the rung at your shoulder level.

Maintain three points of contact

When climbing, maintain three points of contact at all times (two hands/one foot or two feet/one hand). This means you shouldn’t carry anything that prevents you from grasping the ladder securely. Carry tools on your belt or bring them up with a tow rope.   

While using a ladder, keep your body centered between the rails. Don’t lean and reach. Never try to move a ladder while standing on it. Climb down and reposition the ladder closer to your work.

Other ladder safety tips:
• Position ladders on firm ground.
• Never place a ladder in front of a door, unless that door is blocked open, locked, and/or guarded.
• Before use, inspect the ladder and do not use if it has loose or missing parts.
• Make sure your site is safe, and don’t use ladders in bad weather or near power lines.

The American Ladder Institute offers free safety training at