Climbing safely on ladders is not very difficult in theory. But as in so many other areas of life, accidents start to happen when people are in a hurry, take chances or become tired and unfocused. It’s perhaps easier said than done, but the best safety strategy is to try to give yourself the time and space needed to do the job in a calm and focused manor.
Many ladder incidents can be traced back to actions taken—or not taken—before climbing the ladder. So, invest in your safety and check yourself, the ladder and your surroundings before you start climbing.
Never use a ladder if you aren’t fit for it. Don’t climb if you are feeling unwell, if you are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or certain medication. Also make sure to use proper shoes and clothing that doesn’t risk getting tangled or caught in something.
Always have a quick look at the ladder and make sure it’s in good condition and hasn’t been damaged since you last used it. Never use a damaged ladder, no matter how minute the job is.
Have a look at the surroundings and make sure there aren’t any risk factors such as vehicles and other moving objects that can risk crashing into the ladder. Be aware of strong winds or electrical hazards. Also take precautions when working close to doors, a door opening can tip over a ladder if you are unlucky.
Proper set-up and positioning of the ladder is fundamental to ladder safety. Always set up a ladder on a firm, and level surface. This is of course extra crucial to consider when working outdoors, check that the ground is not slippery, uneven or have poor carrying capacity. But remember that a wet or dusty floor indoors can also be deviously slippery.
If you need to work in less than perfect conditions, safety equipment such as support legs, extension legs and stabilisers can be a great help. But sometimes the solution can be as simple as securing the ladder with a rope or a safety strap.
Leaning ladders can take you up to some serious heights so you want to make extra sure that you set them up properly and that you climb safely. If you are working on a leaning ladder without safety equipment, or with just a stabiliser, make sure you place the ladder at the correct angle, 75 degrees, and check that the ladder base can’t slip along the ground.
Before you start climbing, make sure all locking mechanisms are locked. Once you’ve started working take the time to reposition the ladder when needed, never push your luck by leaning outside the ladder in order to reach something. And when you need to reposition the ladder, always climb down first, never try to reposition a ladder while standing on it.
While working on ladders, always keep calm and never challenge the laws of physics. Don’t expose the ladder to excessive side forces, never climb higher than what the ladder is intended for and make sure not to exceed the maximum load.
And make sure to take brakes, fatigue is a risk factor that should not be underestimated.
In order to keep yourself and the ladder balanced, make sure your centre of gravity never ends up outside the ladder. A good rule of thumb is to never lean further out than that your belly button remains between the side stiles of the ladder.
Avoid excessive side loadings such as drilling in brick and concrete walls. For extra safety equip your ladder with support legs or stabilisers. Always keep a secure grip on the ladder when ascending and descending and make sure that the equipment you carry is light and easy to handle.
Do not stand on the top two steps/rungs of a standing ladder without a platform or a handrail/shelf and don’t stand in the top three rungs of a leaning ladder. Also, remember that a standing ladder should never be used for climbing up and stepping of onto another level.
Don’t exceed the maximum load of the ladder. In most cases that means that you are only allowed one person at the time and a maximum load of 150 kg. Some of our work trestles are however approved for 2 persons and loads up to 300 kg, you can find the maximum load on the product label.