Working Safely on Ladders – Advice From the Pros

By Chris Williams on May 23, 2013.

Wooden ladderIn the pest control business, our technicians are frequently up on ladders to seal openings around roof lines, or to trap animals out of attics. They’re well trained in the safe use of ladders. I sometimes cringe when I see homeowners up on ladders, attempting to do roof repairs, gutter cleaning, or even pest control. It seems that many people don’t even know the basics of safe ladder use, or they just forget to be careful:

  • Choose the right ladder for the job. Stepladders are for use on a level surface, not soft ground. If there are electrical lines nearby, don’t use a metal ladder.
  • Use a ladder that is tall enough that you don’t have to stand on the top three rungs of a straight ladder or the top platform of a step ladder. Make sure the ladder is tall enough to extend at least 3 feet beyond the roof line or other point of support.
  • Inspect the ladder before use. Look for missing screws or bolts, cracks, missing steps, greasy steps, bent railings. Don’t use a folding ladder that does not have a locking mechanism for the spreader bars.
  • When using a self-supporting ladder or a stepladder, never use it unfolded. Make sure it is open fully with the spreader bars on the sides locked into position.
  • When using an extension ladder, make sure that all locks are properly engaged.
  • The proper angle for the placement of a ladder is to place the base one quarter of the working length of the ladder away from the wall.
  • Make sure the base of the ladder is level and secure. If it does not have slip-resistant feet, block it, or have someone hold the ladder. Tie the top of an extension ladder to the roof or wall.
  • Before climbing, make sure you are wearing clean, non-slip flat shoes. Don’t climb a ladder with tools or other items in your hands. Attach them to the ladder, wear a tool belt, or hoist the materials that you need in a bucket after you’ve reached the top.
  • Always have 3 points of contact with a ladder when climbing. In other words, two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot. Face the ladder when climbing up or down and center your weight.
  • When working while on the ladder, don’t lean out away from the ladder. Keep your weight centered between the side rails.
  • Never try to move a ladder while a person is on it.
  • Keep the area around the base and the top of the ladder free of equipment and debris.


Photo credit: Esther Gibbons / / CC BY-ND



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