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Many people are injured every year by falling from ladders, and some are killed. Most of these accidents occur during household maintenance and DIY when someone falls from a ladder or the ladder itself falls because it is being used incorrectly.This Fact Sheet brings together expert advice and guidance. Follow it and you will lessen the risks to yourself and to others.



Before You Start

Not every job can be done with just a ladder - or just by you. So always check:

• Are YOU up to the job? Do not overestimate your own abilities. If you are not completely certain you can manage everything involved in doing the job properly, get professional help. This is particularly important if you are elderly or not fully fit or not good with heights - think about getting someone else to do it for you.• Is the LADDER up to the job? Think ahead to what you will have to do at every stage. If you will need to move around while you are up there or carry lots of materials, or use heavy equipment, a ladder may not be sufficient. You might be better off using a mobile tower or scaffolding.

• If you don't know, ask a pro!

Choosing Ladders


Buying, hiring or borrowing, what to look for.All ladders should meet the required British or European standards.Is it strong enough?New ladders are marked according to their safe working load. This classification, however, can vary slightly in the values given and has caused confusion.The variation is due to the different way in which the values for safe working are expressed.In the British Standard it is "Duty Rating" and has been arrived at by taking into account conditions and possible frequency of use for each type. The European Standard uses "Maximum Vertical Static Load".To help clarify this we have given both sets of figures.

British Standard Ladders to either BS2037 (aluminium) or BS 1129 (wood).

Class 1 (Industrial) Duty Rating - 130kg (20 stone) = maximum vertical static load 175kg.

European Standard ladders to BS/EN 131 (all types).

Previous Class 2 Duty Rating - 115kg (18 stone) = maximum vertical static load 150kg.

Is it long enough? The overall length of a ladder is not the same as its usable length; allow one metre ladder length above the highest rung you use. Never stand on the top three rungs.

Is it safe enough? Run this quick check on any ladder you are thinking of buying, hiring or using.

General condition sound (clean and dry, free from wet paint, oil, mud etc)
No cracks
No rungs missing or loose
*Not painted
No stiles** damaged or bent
No warping or splitting (wood)
No corrosion (metal)
No sharp edges or dents (metal)
No rungs bent (metal)
Footpads OK
Caps/rubber fittings OK

All metal ladders should have slip resistant rubber or plastic feet.Damaged ladders need professional repairing, or replacement.*Ladders should never be painted as this could hide dangerous defects from view. A wooden ladder can be protected with clear varnish or transparent rot proofing.**Stiles are the outside uprights on a ladder.


Putting Up Ladders


Whenever you're carrying a ladder keep the front end above head height. Turn carefully - it's not just in slapstick comedies that people get hit by swinging ladder ends!

Short ladders (can be put up by one person)

1. Place the foot of the ladder against a solid surface (e.g. the foot of the wall to be mounted). Then lay the ladder flat on the ground.




2. Lift the top of the ladder and walk down it, hand over hand and rung-by-rung, moving towards the base until the ladder is upright.




3. Rest the top of the ladder against the wall or other firm surface, then lift and slide the base out to a safe position. Ladders are designed so that their safest angle of use comes when every 1 measure out from the wall is matched by 4 measures up the wall.




Long ladders (need two or more people)

1. Lay the ladder on the ground with the base at the spot where it is intended to stand.



2. The heavier person then stands at the base and puts a foot on the bottom rung.



3. The remaining person starts to raise the ladder while the heavy partner reaches forward from the base and grasps the stiles (take care not to pull or strain while the back is arched as this can cause serious injury).



4. Once the ladder is upright, ease the top to rest against the wall or other firm surface.



Extension Ladders - Push-up Type (need two or more people for longer lengths)

A short extension ladder (under 2 metres) can be done after the ladder has been raised as for a short ladder as described above.

For a long extension ladder (over 2 metres):

1. Lay the ladder on the ground in the position to be used and then extend it to the required length.

2. Raise the ladder as for a long ladder, as described above.

If an extension ladder is to be extended, do so before climbing it.

Using Ladders - Work the Safe Way


LadderDO place the base of the ladder on a firm, level, dry surface. If there is a time when this isn't possible - working on grass for instance - tie the feet of the ladder to stakes in the ground to stop it slipping, and place a large flat wooden board underneath to help prevent it sinking.

DON'T put a ladder on top of boxes, bricks, barrels or any other unstable surfaces just to gain extra height.


LadderDO position the ladder so that the base won't slip outwards. Leaning ladders are designed so that the safest angle of use comes when one measure out from the wall is matched by four measures up it. Rungs are usually about 30cm apart, so it is easy enough to get the distances roughly right. Most new extension ladders now have a mark on the stiles to show the safest angle of lean. Remember the rule:

One out for four up!

The more the base is moved out from this position the greater the risk that it will slip outwards suddenly and fall down without warning.




LadderDO secure the bottom and the upper part of the ladder by tying them (from stiles not rungs) with rope or straps to a stable fixed object. You can tie these to stakes in the ground or use fixed blocks or sandbags to help guard against the ladder slipping, or buy special stabilisers. A rope or strap tied from a stake onto a fixed object at about the height of the fifth rung from the bottom will help to stop any further movement.

If it is impossible for some reason to secure the ladder, get another adult to 'foot it' (by standing with one foot on the bottom rung and holding a stile in each hand.)


LadderDO rest the top of the ladder against a solid surface, never against guttering or other narrow or plastic features. Where a surface is too brittle or weak to support the top of the ladder, use a stay or standoff resting on a firm surface nearby. Bolt or clip this to the top of the ladder before putting the ladder up.





DO have at least three rungs beyond the roof's edge if you are using a ladder to get yourself up on to the roof.





DO make sure that longer extension ladders (over 18 rungs) have an overlap of at least three rungs. Shorter ones (up to 18 rungs) need a minimum overlap of two.


DO keep your body facing the ladder at all times, centred between the stiles.

DON'T reach too far forwards or sideways or stand with one foot on the ladder the other one on something else.

DO move the ladder to avoid overstretching and resecure it whenever necessary, however frustrating that might be.

DO try to keep both keep both hands free to hold the ladder as much as possible while you are climbing or descending. If you need to carry any tools, use a shoulder bag, belt holster or belt hooks.

DON'T carry heavy items or long lengths of material up a ladder.

DO hold onto the ladder with one hand while you work. You can get special trays which fit between the stiles to take paint pots, tools etc.

DO wear strong flat shoes or boots with dry soles and a good grip.

DON'T wear sandals, slip-ons or have bare feet on a ladder.

DO make sure a door is locked, blocked or guarded by someone if you are up a ladder in front of it.

DON'T use a ladder in strong wind.

DON'T use a ladder near any power lines.

DON'T be tempted to use a ladder if you're not fit enough, or suffer from giddiness or aren't confident with heights. See the section above 'Are You Up To The Job?'.

DON'T allow any child under sixteen to use a ladder.

Storing Ladders

Always store ladders in a covered, ventilated area, protected from the weather and away from too much dampness or heat.

Ladders can fall if stored vertically, so take particular care. If possible, secure the top (with a bracket, for instance).

Never hang a ladder vertically from a rung.

Don't store a ladder in any place where a child might be tempted to climb it.

For storing horizontally, a rack or wall brackets are ideal. Keep wooden ladders clear of the ground to avoid contact with damp.

Be Secure

Don't store a ladder on view outdoors where it could be stolen or used in a break-in.











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