How To Improve Ladder Safety

By Robert Robillard on Workshop tips

Keeping Things Safe On the Ladder

Spring means many homeowners will be outside working in the yard, pruning trees and cleaning gutters.  This article covers how to improve ladder safety.

Each year in the U.S., accidents involving ladders cause more than 300 deaths and 160,000 injuries requiring emergency medical attention. Ladder accidents usually are caused by improper selection, care or use and not by manufacturing defects.

 Common Ladder Hazards

Some of the more common hazards involving ladders, such as instability, electrical shock, and falls, can be predicted and prevented.

Prevention requires proper planning, correct ladder selection, good work procedures and adequate ladder maintenance.

Here’s a few tips on extension ladder safety:

  • Prior to setting up a ladder inspect the ladder for loose or missing parts, cracks, rivets, joints nuts, rung locks, and bolts and damage.
  • Prior to setting up a ladder check overhead for electrical wire4s and obstructions
  • Inspect the base the ladder will be placed on.  Be aware of slippery conditions  or slopes.
  • The distance from the base of the house to the base of the ladder should be 1/4 the height of the ladder.  Approximately 75 degrees.
  • It is extremely important to make sure the ladder’s foot pads are secure on a firm, level surface.   Shim if necessary.
  • If you are on grass I recommend tilting the foot pads and sink the ladder into the ground a bit by stepping / hopping on the first step and using your weight to set the ladder.
  • If the ladder is resting on a top support point the ladder MUST extend 3-feet above the roof point if the climbers intent is to mount the roof.
  • Do not place a ladder near a door without locking and labeling the door that a ladder and hazard is present.
  • Keep ladders away from electrical lines and pay attention to overhead lines when moving the ladder from one location to another or into into position.
  • Never attempt to stretch while on a ladder, set the ladder up in the middle of where you would like to work. If you can’t reach, move the ladder.
  • Only one person on a ladder at a time.
  • As a general rule, never step on the top three rungs of an extension ladder.
  • Consider the weight place on the ladder which includes the operator, tools and any materials used or stored on the ladder.  See ladder types below.
  • Us a stabilizer to support the upper section of the ladder and tie of whenever possible.
  • For maximum safety have someone hold the ladder.
  • Wear slip resistant sole shoes with adequate sole padding to prevent foot fatigue.
  • Protect, clean and store ladders.  Protect from heat, weather and corrosive materials.
  • Read warning and instruction labels on the ladder.

Proper Use

  • Continually face the ladder as you climb, work or descend the ladder
  • Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder when climbing.
  • Keep hands free when climbing.
  • Keep the middle of your body within the middle section of the side rails ./  do not overreach.
  • Overreaching is one of the most common causes of ladder accidents.
  • If climbing onto a roof, step sideways.

Improper Use

Common factors contributing to falls from improper ladders use include:

  • Haste
  • Sudden movement
  • Poor quality footwear
  • Lack of attention

Ladder Selection

Portable ladders are designed as “one-man” equipment with the proper strength to support the worker as well as his tools and materials.

Consider the work site environment when choosing your ladder and type of ladder such as using  fiberglass ladders near electrical sources.

Ladders are constructed under three general classes:

Type IA Industrial

Heavy-duty with a load capacity not more than 300 pounds.

Type I Industrial

Heavy-duty with a load capacity not more than 250 pounds.

Type II Commercial

Medium-duty with a load capacity not more than 225 pounds (suited for painting and similar tasks).

Type III Household

Light-duty with a load capacity of 200 pounds.

Stay safe ~ concord carpenter



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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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