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Portable ladder safety

Falls from ladders can have devastating consequences.

Ladders should only be used if there is no other reasonably practicable alternative, such as scaffolding or an elevating work platform.

There are many different types of ladders and it is important that consideration is given to which ladder is the most suitable for the job.

Risk control measures

If you must use a ladder, before you start work:

  • conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment
  • install a barricade or warning signs if there is a potential hazard to people near the work area
  • ensure that the ladder has an angle or pitch of about 1:4 (one out and four up)
  • ensure that the ladder extends at least one metre above the landing
  • ensure that the ladder is installed on a stable surface
  • secure the top and bottom of the ladder so it cannot shift position
  • ensure that a non-conductive, insulated ladder is used for electrical work or near electrical hazards
  • ensure that the ladder will not be used in a manner that endangers any person
  • check any older steel-tubing ladders for suitability to the task.

 Carrying a ladder Get help carrying a ladder

  • Only one person should be on a ladder at any given time.
  • When ascending or descending a ladder, maintain three points of contact e.g. two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot, must be in contact with the ladder at all times.
  • Always climb and descend facing the ladder.
  • Don't carry anything when climbing or descending.
  • Keep your body centred between the sides of the ladder. Don't lean sideways or over-reach.
  • Do not stand above the tread or rung on the ladder indicated as the maximum safe working height.
  • Only conduct light work from a ladder.
  • If the ladder is placed near a doorway, the door should be locked open or closed. Alternatively, a person may be placed on guard at the foot of the ladder. Warning signs may also be used.

Using a ladder

Step or trestle ladders

Step or trestle ladders should only be used in the fully open position. A rigid metal spreader or locking device must be used and the load must be carried by the front stiles.

Inspections and maintenance

Ladders should be checked frequently and periodically serviced by a competent person (someone who is qualified either through experience and/or training).

Consideration should be given to the type of environment in which the ladder has been used. For example, aluminium ladders can easily become damaged if exposed to acids.

Load rating

Ensure compliance with the manufacturer's load rating for the ladder.

Further resources can be accessed from our Library catalogue.