Tips for using ladders safely

26 April 2023

There are many different ladders available with an extensive range of uses.

Before using a ladder, it is very important to consider which ladder is most suitable for the task to be undertaken.

A ladder should only be considered if there is no other practical alternative, such as an elevated work platform or scaffolding.

A fall from a ladder (even from a low height) can have devastating consequences, including serious injury and death.

1. Select the right kind of ladder

Always ensure that the ladder is appropriate to the task, location and duration of the task. For example, a fibreglass ladder is often the best choice for electrical work as it provides protection from electrical conductivity. 

Always undertake a Hazard Identification Risk Assessment to identify the specific needs.

Looking for an easy way to do Risk Assessments on your phone? Check out NECA Safe Digital >

2. Inspect the ladder

Before setting up the ladder, inspect it for visible damage or faults. Faulty or damaged ladders should be removed from the working environment for repair or disposal.

Important areas to check are:

  • Rungs, steps and/or top plates - check for damage or if any are missing.
  • Worn or damaged feet - including any non-slip material.
  • A-Frame ladders - look for damage to the spreader bar or lock - have they been bent or broken?
  • Load rating - ensure that ladders are rated to take the weight required for the task. Also ensure compliance with the Manufacturers Load Rating, which should be noted on the side of the ladder.

3. Positioning and setting up a Ladder

Always position a ladder on a stable and flat surface, which does not pose a hazard to others.

Secure the top and bottom of the ladder to prevent slipping or movement.

Ensure the ladder extends at least 1 metre above the landing.

Ensure the ladder is at an angle or pitch of 1:4 – this means a ratio of 1 meter out for every 4 meters in height.

Step, A-Frame and trestle ladders must only be used in a fully open position, and the spreader bars must be locked in place.

Additional precautions may need to be taken when a ladder is being used in the following situations:

  • In a doorway
  • In high traffic areas
  • Wet, windy or inclement weather

In these circumstances, it is best practice to set up a working exclusion zone and provide a spotter at the base of the ladder.

4. Using a ladder safely

To help prevent serious injury or property damage, you should always:

  • Wear correct fitting slip-resistant footwear.
  • Never allow anyone to work under the ladder while it is in use.
  • The ladder must only ever be used by one person at a time.
  • Only one handed light works should be undertaken from a ladder.
  • Maintain 3 points of contact e.g. two feet and one hand OR two hands and one foot.
  • Keep your body between the sides of the ladder and never lean or over-reach.
  • Never stand above the rung indicating the maximum safe working height.
  • Use a toolbelt to carry and secure your tools.
  • Always use a non-conductive, insulated ladder for electrical works or near electrical hazards.
  • Never use any equipment that does not meet minimum safety requirements.
  • Step off the ladder carefully to minimise jarrring to your knees, back and ankles.

Further resources

Any questions?

Contact Safety on (08) 6241 6100 or Full business members have access to 30 minutes of complimentary safety advice.