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Safe use of portable ladders

Each year there are dozens of serious incidents where workers have fallen from ladders. Most of these incidents involve a ladder being used incorrectly or inappropriately.

What do I need to know

Only use ladders for simple access jobs, or for a short duration. It’s best to work from ground level whenever possible. You should also consider alternatives to a ladder, such as scaffolding or an elevated work platform.

Tips on using a ladder safely

If a ladder is your only option, the following precautions can help you avoid injury.

  • Choose the right ladder for the job. It should meet Australian standards and the load requirements of the job
  • An A-frame or extension ladder may be appropriate for some tasks, but a platform ladder is safer
  • Inspect the ladder for damage before each use
  • Only use a ladder if you are physically-capable of doing so
  • Always set up the ladder on a flat, stable surface. If this isn’t possible then use a ladder that includes ladder safety devices like leg levellers, anti-slip gutter guards and stabilisers
  • Always maintain three-point of contact when climbing or descending the ladder. This means two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand
  • Only take small items up or down a ladder – never large or heavy items such as building materials. Only carry items that allow you to maintain three points of contact
  • Never lean or reach away from the ladder while using it
  • The combined weight of the person using the ladder and any items or tools should never exceed the working load limit on the ladder
  • A-frame ladders should only be used when locked in the fully-open position
  • If you’re using an extension ladder, secure it at the top, bottom or both. If this isn’t possible then have someone hold the ladder in place while in use
  • Extension ladders should be angled at a ratio of 1:4. That is, position the base of the ladder 1 metre away from the structure for every 4 metres of height
  • Do not climb or work past the second-last rung of a ladder, and never straddle the top of an A-frame ladder
  • When climbing down, remain facing the ladder and climb to the bottom rung before stepping off.

To help keep your worksite safe, contact HIA's Safety Services team.

Enquire now

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