How to use a ladder correctly, including pre-use checks

Posted on 5th Sep, 2014 | By Lorretta Tatham

We’ve got another great How To guide for you here on the Browns Ladders blog this week. This time, we’re looking at how to use a ladder correctly. It may seem quite intuitive but with a number of accidents resulting from improper use of ladders every year, we thought it would be a wise to cover.

Pre-use checks

Before starting a task, it’s fundamental that you carry out pre-use checks to make sure the ladder is safe to use. This process needs to be followed whenever your situation changes – for example, at the beginning of each day, and whenever you move the ladder.

These are the things you need to check in your pre-use inspection:

The stiles

Make sure they are not bent or damaged – this could result in the ladder buckling or collapsing.

The feet

Are any missing? Are they worn or damaged? Are they in contact with the ground? Moving a ladder from soft, dirty ground to a smooth, solid surface can sometimes result in the dirt making contact with the ground rather that the foot itself. This is not safe! When necessary, wipe the feet down to ensure the ladder remains in contact with the ground.

The rungs

Make sure they are not bent, worn, missing or loose.

The locking mechanisms

If they are bent or the fixings are worn or damaged the ladder could collapse. Ensure any locking bars are engaged.

If you spot any defects with the above, don’t use the ladder and notify your employer. It’s not safe for working with.

8 ways to working safely

Keeping mindful about safety doesn’t stop at the pre-use checks. There are a number of precautions you can take when working on a ladder that minimise your risk of a fall.

  1. Only carry light materials and tools and don’t overload the ladder – read the manufacturers’ labels on the ladder and follow British Standard regulations
  2. Make sure the ladder angle is at 75° – you should use the 1 in 4 rule – 1 unit out for every 4 units up
  3. Always grip the ladder and face the ladder rungs while climbing or descending and don’t overreach. Make sure your belt buckle (navel) stays within the stiles
  4. Don’t try to move or extend ladders while standing on the rungs
  5. Don’t work off the top three rungs, and try to make sure the ladder extends at least 1m (three rungs) above where you are working
  6. Don’t stand ladders on moveable objects such as pallets, bricks, lift trucks, tower scaffold, excavator buckets, vans or mobile elevating work platforms
  7. Maintain three points of contact when climbing (this means a hand and two feet) and wherever possible at the work position. Where you cannot maintain a handhold, other than for a brief period (eg to hold a nail while starting to knock in, starting a screw etc), you will need to take other measures to prevent a fall or reduce the consequences if one happened
  8. For a leaning ladder, you should secure it (eg by tying the ladder to prevent it from slipping either outwards or sideways) and have a strong upper resting point, ie do not rest a ladder against week upper surfaces (eg glazing or plastic gutters)

For more guidance of working safely at a height, you may like to book onto one of our safety training courses.

Do you have any other tips for working safely on a ladder? If so, tell us in the comments below or Tweet us @BrownsLadders

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