Approach Management

Lesson 3, Ladder Safety

Of the 14 fatalities in 2017, three were due to improper ladder usage. These deaths are preventable. 



Falls continue to be the leading cause of death in construction every year, and falls from ladders make up nearly a third of those deaths nationally. Of the 14 fatalities in 2017, Washington State had three fatalities due to improper ladder usage. Falls from ladders can be prevented by following safe work practices.


When Should You Use a Ladder?

Before you decide to use a ladder think, is there a better piece of equipment I can use? While an extension or stepladder is commonly used, it may not always be the best option.


  • Ask yourself these questions before deciding on using a ladder: 
  • Will I have to hold heavy items while on the ladder? 
  • Is the elevated area high enough that it would require a ladder that can become unstable? 
  • Will I be working from this height for a long time? 
  • Do I have to stand on the ladder sideways to do this work? 


If your answer is yes to one of the above questions, consider using something other than a ladder. If possible, bring in other equipment like a scissor lift or scaffolding.

If you must use a ladder, you must have completed training before use and it must be documented.

Consider the use of a working platform ladder with hand rail barricades on the sides. A good example is a platform step ladder.

Once you decide to use a ladder make sure it’s the right ladder for the job. For example, ensure the ladder is high enough for you to reach your work area without having to stand on the top rung.

When using ladders to access another level, secure and extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the landing point to provide a safe handhold.

Also the following should be considered;  

  • The base of the ladder should be secured
  • Place the ladder on stable level ground, making certain the ladder is level. Some ladders have the leveling devices attached, make sure you know how these devices work. 
  • Ensure that a stepladder is fully open/extended before starting work. 
  • Prevent those who pass by from walking under or near ladders in use by using barriers such as cones or getting your coworker to act as a lookout 
  • Do not work on the top rung of the ladder 
  • Do not carry any tools or materials in your hands when climbing a ladder, hands free
  • Do not lean away from the ladder to carry out your task 
  • Always keep your weight centered between the side rails 
  • Do not use ladders near doorways. If you need to use a ladder near a doorway, make sure that the door is locked 
  • Check the ladder carefully using the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure there are no visible defects and that it is in good working condition. 
  • Maintain and store the ladder per the manufacturer’s instructions.


Here are some ladder removal criteria; 

  • Do not use the ladder if it is bent
  • Do not use the ladder if it is missing a step
  • Do not use the ladder if the spreader bars do not have a locking device 
  • Do not alter or fix a damaged ladder


Take the time to inspect, install and set-up your ladder properly.

You need to go home after work. Someone is waiting for you. There is no need to be a fatal statistic due to using a ladder improperly.  Also, please practice ladder safety at home.


Let’s be safe out there!

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