Work at Height, Ladder Safety

SafeWork Australia

Ladder Safety at home and at work.

Ladder safety at home and at work is serious as failing to follow the simple rules for use can lead to serious debilitating injuries or worse. Falls from height including ladders is a leading cause of death and serious injuries in Australia. (Source SafeWork Australia)

66% of the persons who suffered fatal injuries were aged 45 years and over, with most from the construction industry. (Source SafeWork Australia) These statistics include all types of falls, including falling off ladders. The Model WHS Legislation across Australia provides guidance to employers in ensuring appropriate systems are in place backed up with effective training and supervision.

It is important to use a ladder as the manufacturer intended it to prevent falls from ladders. Following are some of the simple things you can do to assist in ladder safety.

Inspect the Ladder before each use and check for any damage or missing parts.

The best way to inspect your ladder is to give it a visual check-up: look closely at every aspect of the ladder and see if anything looks out of place.

  • Do the base, feet, and steps look sturdy?
  • Do the rails feel secure?
  • Is there visible damage?
  • Are there any minor issues, such as small cracks or scratches.?

If there are any issues with the ladder tag it and put it aside and report.

Place the Ladder on a level, stable surface before climbing.

Before putting the ladder in place check the surface is stable and level surface suitable for supporting your weight and the point weight of the ladder. This will assist in ensuring that the ladder will not move whilst you are on it.

Face the Ladder when climbing up or down.

When climbing or descending a ladder, always face the ladder. This gives a better feel for balance and reduces the likelihood of falling off the ladder. If you need to carry something while climbing a ladder, use a bucket or tool belt to keep your hands free will reduce the possibility of falls.

Use Both Hands When Climbing.

When climbing a ladder, it is important to use both hands (i.e., three points of contact) to maintain balance. This is key to ladder safety as you should not carry items in one hand whilst climbing the ladder. Hold onto the ladder’s rungs with both your hands to avoid falling and injury. You should also keep your body centered between the two sides of the ladder while you climb or descend.

Wear slip-resistant shoes when using a Ladder, preferably footwear with a heal.

Non-slip shoes free from debris on the sole of the shoe is essential when using a ladder. Good footing when climbing up and down a ladder is essential as it is difficult to see the rungs properly. Sturdy shoes will increase ladder safety through improved traction and stability needed to climb and descend the ladder.

Do not stand on the top rung of the Ladder.

Leave at least 900 mm above you on a ladder to assist in making a hand hold to aid in stability. Especially when using the ladder to transverse to another working surface the top of the ladder above this surface will help steady you getting on an off the ladder.

Work at Height, Ladder Safety

SafeWork Australia

Do not use a Ladder in bad weather conditions.

Do not use a Ladder in weather conditions, such as high winds or during a thunderstorm. If you must use a ladder in inclement weather, take extra precautions to avoid injury.

The following are key ladder safety factors that should be considered.

  • Work from the ground where possible.
  • Ensure the ladder and other equipment you intend to use whilst on the ladder is suitable and checked regularly.
  • If there is an alternative to the ladder, use it.
  • Ensure that the supporting and ground is dry, firm, level, and slip-free.
  • If the area at the base of the ladder is busy with pedestrians or vehicles, ensure that there is a suitable barrier or persons assisting to keep the area clear.
  • Never rest the ladder against weak surfaces, such as glazing or plastic gutters.
  • Make the ladder stable by angling it at a 1:4 ratio of the distance from the wall to the distance up the wall.
  • Where possible, a ladder should be tied to the working surface to prevent it from slipping. This can be at the top, the bottom, or both, ensuring both stiles are tied.
  • If the ladder cannot be tied, have a person ‘foot’ the ladder to ensure it does not slip at the base.
  • If working outdoor with the ladder, ensure that the weather conditions are suitable with no high winds or heavy rain.
  • Never work near live electricity unless specifically trained to do so.
  • Place at least 1 m of the ladder above the work area to provide a hand hold.
  • All work is to be completed within the width of the styles. Stop work and readjust the ladder. Never reach out past the ladder.
  • Maintain a clear area below the ladder for the possibility of falling objects.
  • Workers should be trained in the correct use of the ladder and include using both hands during climbing (three points of contact).
  • Ladders should be inspected and maintained regularly, and only competent persons be permitted to repair them.
  • Ladders need to be stored and transported according to the manufacturer’s specifications.


Every year people fall from ladders at home and in the workplace completing simple tasks. The rules are simple and should be adhered to. Ladder safety is simple if you follow the rules.

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