Most jurisdictions require that ladders be inspected before use. Contact the government department responsible for occupational health and safety in your area for more information.
Document last updated on August 25, 2021
Contact our Safety InfoLine 905-572-2981
Toll free 1-800-668-4284
(in Canada and the United States)
Before using a ladder, you should have access to user instructions from the manufacturer in case you need to refer to them. You should always carry out a ‘pre-use’ check to spot any obvious visual defects to make sure the ladder is safe to use. A pre-use check should be carried out: The check should include: If you spot any of the above defects, do not use the ladder and tell the person in charge of the work.
Before using a ladder, you should have access to user instructions from the manufacturer in case you need to refer to them.
You should always carry out a ‘pre-use’ check to spot any obvious visual defects to make sure the ladder is safe to use.
A pre-use check should be carried out:
The check should include:
If you spot any of the above defects, do not use the ladder and tell the person in charge of the work.
Before work commences, all physical locations and tasks that may present the risk of a fall need to be identified. This includes access to the areas where tasks are to be performed. Each task needs to be examined to determine whether there is a risk of falling and how that risk can be eliminated or minimised.
Tasks that need particular attention are those carried out using equipment to work at the elevated level by means of a portable ladder.
A portable ladder may only be used if it is appropriate for the task, including consideration of the duration of the task, and it is set up in the correct manner. The employer must also provide any workers with such information, training and instruction as is necessary to enable them to perform the task with this equipment in a safe manner.
The Work Health and Safety (Preventing Falls in Housing Construction Code of Practice) Approval 2012 requires employers to:
People using ladders should not:
Except where additional and appropriate fall protection equipment is used in conjunction with the ladder, any person using a ladder should not:
A ladder must be set up on a surface that is solid, stable and secure. It must also be set up to prevent it from slipping.
Ladders should be used primarily as a means of access to or egress from a work area. They should only be used as a work platform if:
Ladders should only be used as a means of gaining access or for performing simple operations. Elevated work platforms, mobile platforms or scaffolding should be used for heavy work or work over extended periods. Ladders are available in numerous designs, sizes and construction material.
Selecting a ladder
Ladders must be correctly selected for the task to be undertaken. In doing this, the duration of the task, the physical surroundings of where the task is to be undertaken and the prevailing weather conditions must be taken into consideration. For example, metal ladders or metal reinforced ladders should not be used for live electrical work.
Typically, ladder use for construction work involves repetitive, high volume use and handling, requiring them to be of robust design and construction. Ladders used for construction work should be industrial grade, not domestic grade.
Any ladder used at a workplace must be set up on a surface that is solid and stable, and set up so as to prevent the ladder from slipping. Slipping of ladders can be prevented by:
Self-supporting step ladders are suitable in places where there is no support adjacent to the working point.
Select a ladder of sufficient height for you to reach the work without standing above the second step from the top.
There must be sufficient space to use the step ladder in a fully spread position.
Non-self-supporting ladders are suitable where there is a suitable support adjacent to the working or access point.
Select a ladder of sufficient length so that:
If ladders meeting the above conditions cannot be obtained, then some form of mobile platform or scaffold must be used.
Select the right ladder for the job. If you’re washing windows inside the home, choose a step stool or utility ladder, they’re often used when working at low or medium heights. Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places like cleaning the gutters on the roof of a house.
Move materials with caution when on the ladder. When you are cleaning out the garage or closet, be careful pushing or pulling anything from shelves while standing on a ladder. You could lose your balance and fall off.
Always reposition the ladder closer to the work. Over reaching or leaning far to one side when you’re on the ladder could make you lose your balance and fall.
Be careful when climbing; get help if you need it. Be safe, ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the centre of the ladder as you climb, and always hold the side rails with both hands.
Ladders should be maintained in good condition, clean and free from splinters. Rung and tread joints should be tight and fittings should be securely attached.
Pulleys should be lubricated and all moving parts should operate freely without bending, or undue play. Frayed or worn ropes should be replaced. Before you use any ladder, check that it is free from defects as follows:
Inspect step ladders for defects such as:
Extension ladders must also be checked for defects such as:
Ladders may be treated with a protective coat of clear finish. They should never be painted as this may hide defects.
All ladders that are 2 metres and over in length should have their point of balance marked around both sides with a 25 millimetre band of yellow paint or a paint that stands out. In the case of extension ladders, the point of balance in the fully closed position should be marked on all styles.
To carry ladders between 2.5 metres and 5 metres by yourself:
To carry a short ladder, lift it all at the mid-point. Tilt the front up and steady it with the other hand. Grip it so the lower stile just clears the ground & watch for overhead obstructions as you go.
Take care to control a ladder being carried, raised or lowered so that it does not injure your fellow workers or damage equipment. Take extra care when it is windy.
Any wooden ladder longer than 5 metres should be carried by two persons.
Any fibreglass ladder longer than 7 metres should be carried by two persons.
When a long ladder is to be carried by two persons:
Long objects including ladders, may be carried near live electrical apparatus provided that they carry it in a horizontal position and preferably by two persons. They must not be carried at or above shoulder level.
Short, light ladders can be lifted directly into position. Check that there is a safe, firm footing before erecting any ladder.
Two people are required to erect long and heavy ladders and should proceed as follows:
Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. The ground may be very bumpy because of the freezing and thawing during the winter. There also could be soft, muddy spots. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven. The same is true for uneven flooring. And, remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before you climb.
On a windy day, throw a rope over a suitable support and attach it to the head of the ladder using the handling line as shown to raise the ladder with safety.
Closing extension ladder
Most ladders remain on the back of vehicles. However, if a ladder is to be stored inside, please observe the following:
Safe placement of ladders
Working from a ladder
Do not use a ladder as a seat between tasks. You might want to take a break from your chores, but never use a step ladder’s top or pail shelf as a seat. It is not designed to carry your weight for extended periods of time.
When ascending or descending the ladder:
When working on the ladder:
Safety ladder shoes
These self-adjusting shoes allow a ladder to stand at any angle. Non-slip neoprene soles grip wet and slippery surfaces. The shoes can be fitted to any ladder.
What to do if you fall
If you are not injured, rest awhile and regain your composure before climbing again.
Use the correct ladder
Use a ladder of proper length to reach the working height you need. Inside a house, that probably means a low stepladder; outside, you may need a taller stepladder, and for some projects, an even taller single or extension ladder. Use a ladder according to use and working load (the combined weight of the climber and the load being carried).
Maximum ladder lengths
Maximum ladder lengths listed in AS/NZS 1892:1996 parts 1 and 3, and AS 1892:1992 part 2 are:
Domestic ladders (used by a householder for maintenance and repairs carried out by themselves around their own dwelling) must have a minimum load rating of 100 kilograms.
Industrial ladders (any ladder other than a domestic ladder) must have a minimum load rating of 120 kilograms.
Domestic ladders should not be used in an industrial (non-domestic) environment.