10 Critical Rules for Safe Ladder Setup

Working safely on a ladder depends on proper setup. Make sure your employees know the rules.

To avoid ladder accidents, employees have to set up ladders correctly. Be sure to teach them these 10 ladder setup rules.

  • Place the ladder on a firm, level surface, and check to make sure the ladder is stable. Use wide boards under the ladder to give stability if the ground is soft.
  • Never set a ladder on top of a drum, stack of pallets, or other object to gain more height. Use a taller ladder instead. If you set up a ladder on such an unstable base, you’re just asking for an accident.
  • Never set up a ladder in front of a door unless the door is locked or blocked—or you’ve got someone standing on the other side to keep people from opening the door.
  • Never lean a ladder against a surface that isn’t strong enough to support your weight, such as a window or an object that might move under your weight.
  • Never fasten two ladders together for additional height. Instead, use a taller ladder or an extension ladder designed for two-ladder coupling.
  • Make sure the spreaders on stepladders are fully extended and locked in place and that locking devices on extension ladders are secured.

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  • Remember the 4-to-1 rule: Place the base of the ladder 1 foot from the wall for every 4 feet between the base and the support point. For example, if it is 8 feet from the base of a ladder to its support point, the base of the ladder should be 2 feet away from the building.
  • Extend extension ladders at least 3 feet above a support point such as the edge of a roof.
  • Make sure that the upper section of an extension ladder overlaps and rests on the bottom section. The overlap should always be on the climbing side of the ladder. For ladders of 36 feet or more, the overlap should be least 3 feet.
  •   Secure ladders at the top and bottom.

7 Simple Rules for Preventing Falls

  1.    Select the right ladder (height and type) for the job.


  2. Inspect ladders carefully before each use.
  3. Follow ladder safety rules and regulations.
  4. Use common sense—only one person on a ladder at a time.
  5. Hold on while your climb and while you work
  6. Don’t overreach; get down and move the ladder.
  7. Report safety problems with ladders right away.

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Better Design Could Reduce Stepladder Injuries

Researchers from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society say that not only improved user behavior but also improved ladder design could help decrease the number of stepladder accidents.

Daniel Tichon, Lowell Baker, and Irving Ojalvo explain that compared with a flat surface, stepladders present a smaller and less rigid surface on which to stand and balance.

They suggest manufacturers make stepladders more rigid to provide a stable work platform and offset human balance problems. Front and rear rails could be made of closed tubular sections and cross-shaped spreader bars.

Tomorrow, we feature another key aspect of ladder safety—ladder inspections.