How to stay safe when using a ladder

STAFF TRAINING Businessman working at office desk
ladder propped up against a wall photo

Ladders can help you to climb up high, but if used incorrectly will send you tumbling all the way down.

There are a few simple measures you can take either at home or in the workplace to ensure that you're using your ladder or stepladder safely.

First, make sure you are using the right ladder for the job. It makes no sense to be using a ridiculously big ladder for a relatively small job, and likewise you shouldn't be overreaching on a ladder that is too small.

The biggest cause of falls from ladders is in fact overreaching. It's worth getting down and moving the ladder or using one more appropriate for the task, rather than risking a tumble. The HSE also reminds people that duration of use is not an excuse for laziness. Even if you'll just be using a ladder for a short amount of time, you must think of every health and safety risk that could possibly factor in.
There are certain checks the ladder user must perform before getting on the ladder. You must take a look at the stiles, feet, rungs and locking mechanisms for any damage or abnormalities that could make the ladder less safe. If there are visible defects, the ladder must be considered unsafe for use.

On most kinds of ladders, you must not use the top few rungs - especially not the the top rung as the raised centre of gravity could impact your personal safety.

When using a ladder that is not self supporting (i.e. one which you must lean against a wall or shelf), a second person keeping an eye from the bottom could ensure that you are kept safe. Having said this, it is imperative that only one person is physically using the ladder at a time.

Every ladder you use will have signage that tells you what the maximum load of the ladder is. When using it for heavy work, you must ensure that you do not overload the equipment.

As an employer or manager, it is your responsibility to make your employees aware of the risks and hazards. Adequate signage is an ideal way to do this. A simple custom sign or sticker can be placed where visible to every ladder user as a simple reminder of how to use a ladder while taking the appropriate precautions.