Ensuring you take your next step safely

How to use a ladder safely! (6 Top tips!)

  • By: Gareth
  • Time to read: 5 min.

6 Top tips on using a ladder safely!

The aim of this article is to give you an understanding of some of the requirements needed for your safety when selecting a particular type of common ladder.

The main safety points to remember are:

  • Inspect your ladders or equipment before every use.
  • Ensure you set up your ladder or equipment to the manufacturers instructions.
  • Ensure that it is the correct height for your task.
  • Avoid standing on top rungs.
  • Try to keep tasks to a minimum duration.
  • Maintain three points of contact, feet and one hand.

Within the construction industry, it is commonplace for anyone who is being asked to perform tasks at height to undertake some basic ladder training to try and prevent avoidable accidents.

In a domestic situation, this basic ladder training is in all honesty is not likely to happen.

You may also be interested in our article where we answer some common ladder question here.

Therefore, at Best Ladder Access, we felt it very important to us that we provide you with an explanation of basic ladder using techniques.

This will at least, reduce the likelihood of an avoidable accident being realised.

We appreciate that most of us think we know how to carry most tasks safely but we felt a reminder wouldn’t be a waste of time……our motto?…..ensuring you take your next step safely!

After reading this article, you should be confident in calling yourself a competent person in Health and Safety terminology.

From a Health and Safety Executive viewpoint, (….and I apologise as I am a working site manager!) access equipment should be erected, altered, used and dismantled by a competent person. (which we’re confident you will be soon enough)

Where working at height cannot be avoided, we need to strive to choose the most appropriate form of access equipment for the task in hand.

The Combination stair ladder!

The combination stair ladder not only has the flexibility to adjust to suit your stair type, it’s combination types are perfect for all those inside and outside jobs!

Important ladder points to remember

It’s really important for the person who is going to be using the ladder to inspect it thoroughly before it’s used. This is to ensure it’s free from any defects that might contribute to you having an accident whilst using it.

By checking the ladder visually first, you can determine if there are any broken or damaged parts. These parts maybe be intrinsic to the safe operation of the ladder equipment like a brace, a locking arm or hinge lock for example.

These typical parts will stop movable parts from moving whilst you’re on the equipment. Another typical damaged part maybe a defective rung that will give way when stepped on.

The second point is to ensure that it’s correctly erected to the manufacturers requirements. This will mean things like ensuring that folding ladders are fully opened, locking mechanisms are fully engaged, clips locked in position etc.

By adhering to the manufacturers instructions, you can be assured that they have been tested under those conditions.

Ladders and Step ladders

In a domestic setting, one of the most common ways of accessing areas of height in the home are the use of straight ladders and step ladders.

The first thing to ask yourself and to assess is if the equipment you have, or going to purchase is correct for the job at hand.

In deciding if a ladder or step ladder is up to the task, typically on site, a risk assessment would be undertaken.

Again, in a domestic setting, this can be done in your head and assessing the possible risks for a couple of minutes could prevent you from being out of action for weeks!

Things you could be thinking about are typically, “what height do I need to reach?”, “will the ladder fit all the areas I need it to?”, “will I have to stretch or over reach?”

Ladder and Step ladder guidance

  • Typical guidance of ladder and step ladder use is that they really should be used for short duration works. This is thought generally of being a maximum of 15 to 30 minutes.
  • The equipment should be as light as possible for its size so it can be erected, dismantled and moved easily, not putting any stress on the person using it.
  • The ladder or step ladder must also have provision to allow you to have one hand available at all times to be able to grab onto it to steady yourself.
  • You should also never stand on the top tread as lateral stability is severely reduced.

A final additional piece of guidance is that when using a ladder or step ladder, they should be positioned so that you are facing your task as the ladder is climbed.

Presenting, The Telescopic Ladder

The ingenious Telescopic ladder could be the only ladder you’d ever need. Easy to store, use inside and outside and easy to transport!

Straight ladder guidance

Ladders should be positioned at a 75 degree angle. This is the equivalent of a ratio of 1:4. So, for a ladder that is 4 metres long, the bottom should be 1 metre out and be positioned on a firm and level base.

This is incredibly important as climbing a ladder that isn’t on a level base will potentially lean or slip as you climb higher.

You can read our article on ladder levellers here.

They should be positioned so that they aren’t vulnerable to an impact by people or vehicles and be of a type suitable for the job being undertaken.

You really need to briefly check it over for any defects and when erected, if it’s being tied off by a rope for stability, ensure it’s tied by the stiles on the sides and not the rungs.

If you’re going to be climbing the ladder and stepping off onto another level, the ladder must extend at least 1 metre above the step off point to ensure you have a firm hand hold whilst stepping off.

It also must not be rested at the top when erected on anything fragile such as window glass or plastic guttering.

The window glass for obvious reasons but plastic guttering can move, deform and even snap, potentially causing an accident. To avoid this happening, we can’t recommend enough the use of a “stand-off” accessory. We have an article on stand-off accessories here.

The Heath & Safety Executive have a great easy read format of the Safe Use of Ladders and Step Ladders which can be found here. 

More very useful quick reads:

HSE – Using leaning ladders safely.

HSE – Using step ladders safely.

Final thoughts

So, as long as you follow the quick steps outlined above and have chosen the correct ladder, your chances of having an avoidable accident are massively reduced.

You would be most welcome to continue looking at our helpful articles on Best Ladder Access.

You can take a look at all of our articles here.

Be careful and happy, safe climbing!