Ladder safety

If you fall off a ladder it can be a long way to fall but there are a few simple things you can do to stay safe while using a ladder. Even if you’re confident using a ladder, you might like to check through these safety tips.

Is a ladder the safest way to do the job?

Ladders are not designed as working platforms so make sure a ladder is the best tool for the job. For large jobs, eg painting a house think about using scaffolding as this will make the job easier and safer.

Check your ladder first – is it safe?

Keep your ladder in good condition. Check it once yearly (the start of daylight saving is a good time) to make sure:

  • all rivets and bolts are secure
  • there are no bends or twists in the frame and joints are sound and work well
  • safety latches on step ladders function effectively
  • the treads on the feet are clean and still grip well.

If anything is broken or loose, don’t use it. It’s not worth the risk. And if you’re buying a ladder, make sure it meets the New Zealand Safety Standard AS/NZ 1982.1.1996 (external link).

Safe ladder setup

  • Place the ladder on firm, level ground
  • Place the ladder at a safe angle and ensure it is stable before climbing up. Remember the one in four safety rule – one measure out for every four measures up, ie 4 metres high means the bottom of the ladder must be 1 metre from the wall
  • Make sure the ladder extends one metre above where it rests against the building, and is at least four metres clear of power lines
  • Make sure the bottom of your ladder is secure before you climb up. If you’re using an extended ladder secure the top of the ladder as well
  • Have somebody hold the bottom of the ladder steady, or if that’s not possible then secure the feet of the ladder to the ground for support.

Use the ladder safely

  • Keep the steps and rungs clear. If you’re painting, use a hook on the side of the ladder to hang your paint pot
  • Ask someone to hold the ladder steady while you work, or let someone else know you’re working on a ladder before you climb up
  • Avoid over-reaching – keep your belt buckle between the ladder uprights. If you over-reach you could pull the ladder over sideways
  • Always keep three points of contact on the ladder, ie two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand while climbing, and two feet and one hand when working
  • Always stop at the third step from the top of a ladder and remember it’s important to have something to hold onto at all times
  • Only use the ladder for access, not as a working platform
  • Avoid using two step ladders with a plank across the ladders. They’re not designed to be used as scaffolding
  • Know what your ladder’s safe operating ‘weight limit’ is and work within it.

Ladder safety is important at work and at home. See DIY around the home for tips on how to do DIY safely.

For more information, see:

ACC4407 Ladder safety: Tips for using ladders safely (PDF 507K).

Reviewed: 30 May 2014