Each year there are dozens of serious incidents where workers have fallen from ladders. Most of these incidents involve a ladder being used incorrectly or inappropriately.
Workers in construction, retail and building maintenance are most commonly injured; however any worker using a ladder is at risk.
What you can do
Only use ladders for simple access jobs, or for a short duration. It’s best to work from ground level whenever possible.
You should also consider alternatives to a ladder, such as scaffolding or an elevated work platform.
If a ladder is your only option, the following precautions can help you avoid injury.
- Choose the right ladder for the job. It should meet Australian standards and the load requirements of the job.
- An A-frame or extension ladder may be appropriate for some tasks, but a platform ladder is safer.
- Inspect the ladder for damage before each use.
- Only use a ladder if you are physically-capable of doing so.
- Always set up the ladder on a flat, stable surface. If this isn’t possible then use a ladder that includes ladder safety devices like leg levellers, anti-slip gutter guards and stabilisers.
- Always maintain three point of contact when climbing or descending the ladder. This means two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
- Only take small items up or down a ladder – never large or heavy items such as building materials. Only carry items that allow you to maintain three points of contact.
- Never lean or reach away from the ladder while using it.
- The combined weight of the person using the ladder and any items or tools should never exceed the working load limit on the ladder.
- A-frame ladders should only be used when locked in the fully-open position.
- If you’re using an extension ladder, secure it at the top, bottom or both. If this isn’t possible then have someone hold the ladder in place while in use.
- Extension ladders should be angled at a ratio of 1:4. That is, position the base of the ladder 1 metre away from the structure for every 4 metres of height.
- Do not climb or work past the second-last rung of a ladder, and never straddle the top of an A-frame ladder.
- When climbing down, remain facing the ladder and climb to the bottom rung before stepping off.
Watch this video safety alert for more tips on working safely with ladders.