Ladder safety — Straight and extension ladders

Straight and extension ladders add risk to any job. Following are some tips for safer interaction with ladders:

  • Before using a ladder, inspect it for faults, such as broken rungs or rails. If it’s an extension ladder, inspect the pulleys, ropes, and locks for excessive wear. Also, check the footings and pads to make sure they still provide a non-skid surface. If any defect is found, the ladder should be tagged unsafe and taken out of service. If it cannot be fixed, make sure it’s disposed of properly.
  • The ladder should reach a minimum of three feet above the “point of support” and should be secured at this point.
  • Abide by the 1:4 rule – the base of the ladder should be placed one foot out for every four feet of height. This means if you are using a 12-foot ladder, the base should be three feet from the structure. Some ladders provide a picture guide on the ladder itself to assist you in this.
  • Always face the ladder when ascending or descending, and have both hands free to grasp it securely. If you need tools, carry them in a tool belt or pull them up with a rope once you have reached your destination.
  • Remember the “3-point rule” – at least two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, should be in contact with the ladder at all times.
  • Keep your body between the side rails of the ladder. This reduces the chance of it tipping over and/or of you falling off.


Remember, you set the tone for safety on the job site. When employees see that you are committed to safety, they will follow your lead.

  • Purchase ladders appropriate for the tasks your employees perform. Only purchase approved ladders.
  • Routinely inspect all ladders.
  • Any defective ladder should be tagged unsafe and taken out of service. If it can’t be fixed, make sure it is disposed of properly.
  • Employees are more likely to slip and fall if they feel rushed. Always ensure employees know that safety is their number-one job.
  • Conduct ladder safety training for all new hires and regular training for all employees. Ensure all employees understand and use the right ladder for each task.