Ladder Safety 101

Ladder Safety 101
Posted on in Safety Managers, Volunteers

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Ladder collapsed… Fell from ladder…  Fell after losing balance while working from ladder… Ladder shifted… Coming down ladder… Foot got caught…

These are just a handful of the causes of injuries involving ladders out of over 100 accidents that have occurred involving ladders in the past three years to Habitat for Humanity affiliates. The injuries that resulted from these accidents include a fractured wrist, dislocated knee, head laceration, fractured rib and collapsed lung and back injuries. This is just a sampling of the injuries caused by ladder accidents.

What’s surprising is that most people in the construction business understand that using a ladder can be risky, however not everyone takes appropriate safety measures when working with ladders.

Ladder Usage Safety Measures

The good news is there are safety measures that should be followed when setting up and using a ladder to help ensure a safe work space:

  • Make sure the ladder is stable left-right and top-bottom.
  • Do not place a ladder on ground that is too soft, rocky, uneven, or otherwise unsafe.
  • If shims are used under the feet of the ladder to account for sloping ground it is best to use a ground anchor and rope tied to the bottom rung to secure the ladder feet from movement (positioned so as not to be tripping hazard).
  • Do not extend a ladder by placing it on top of a box or other object.
  • Purchase and use a ladder stabilizer for extension ladders to keep the top from moving around.
  • Extension ladders should extend 3 feet above the landing to provide a hand-hold.
  • Follow the 4-to-1 rule when setting up a single or extension ladder. The distance from the base of the ladder and the base of the wall should be about one-fourth of the distance from the base of the ladder to where the ladder touches the wall. For example, if the bottom of the ladder is 3 feet out from wall, the top of the ladder should be no more than 12 feet up the wall. Look for the manufacture’s label on the ladder for correct positioning.
  • How will tools and materials be lifted up to where work is being done?  Will the volunteer or employee be able to maintain three-point contact at all times while climbing up and down the ladder – at least two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, should be in contact with the ladder at all times?  If not, figure another way to lift the tools and materials instead of having the worker carry them up.  A rope and bucket can be used to pull tools up to a roof, for example.
  • When working from a ladder, do not lean or reach out beyond arms length to either side. Climb down, and move the ladder to the desired work area.
  • Never use a ladder in a horizontal position, specifically as a scaffold platform.
  • If a ladder is placed in a doorway, the door should be locked, blocked or guarded.
  • Face the ladder when climbing up or down.
  • Make sure shoes and ladders are dry and clean of mud or debris.
  • Only one person should be on a ladder at a time.
  • Do not climb higher than the 3rd rung from the top of a ladder.
  • Use fiberglass ladders when working around electricity. Always move ladders in a horizontal position to avoid contact with power lines.
  • Ladders should be inspected for defects prior to use. A ladder that is found to be defective should be tagged and taken out of service.


Using the above safety tips can help keep your volunteers and employee from needlessly suffering a broken bone or worse when using a ladder.  Take charge, and make sure your volunteers and employees understand, and practice, these ladder safety tips.

If you have any questions please call the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program at (888) 553-9002.



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