Ladder Safety

Read through our health and safety tips below to ensure correct usage of your ladder. For further information, we have a selection of PDF documents, or please ring us on 01452 520144 

Click to download a two page PDF leaflet "Ladder & Stepladder Safety Guide"

More information >>> click to see our huge choice of LADDER SAFETY ACCESSORIES

Contents of this page (click title to go to that section):

Step 1 Before you start
Step 2 Choosing ladders
Step 3 Checking ladders
Step 4 Putting up ladders
Step 5 Using ladders safely
Step 6 Storing ladders
Step 7 Stepladder safety


  Step 1. Before you start
  • Not every job can be done with just a ladder - or by you on your own. So always check:
  • Are YOU up to the job?
  • Don't kid yourself by overestimating your abilities. If you're not completely certain that 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 much good with heights - think about getting someone else to do it for you.
  • Is a LADDER up to the job?
  • Think ahead to what you'll have to do at every stage. If you will need to move around while you're 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.
  • Remember - if you don't know - ask a PRO. (i.e. Lansford Access!!)


  Step 2. Choosing ladders


Ladders should meet the British or European standards - check this whenever you buy, hire or borrow one. Note that a British Standard does not exist for some types of ladder (e.g. Roof Ladders), in these cases take other measures to be certain that you are using quality equipment.

Is it strong enough?

The UK has three categories of ladder strength -

  • Industrial Duty (Class 1) ladders are designed for a Maximum Static Vertical Load 175kg ( 27.5 stones). This will sometimes be referred to as "safe working load".
  • Trade Duty (previously Class 2, but now EN131) ladders are designed for a Maximum Static Vertical Load 150kg ( 23.5 stones)
  • Domestic Duty (Class 3) ladders are designed for a Maximum Static Vertical Load 125kg ( 19.5 stones)

Confusion frequently arises from the use of the term "Duty Rating" on some ladders, where Class 1 ladders are designated a Duty Rating 130kg and Class 3 ladders are designated a Duty Rating 95kg. These figures were arrived at by British Standards from a consideration of the frequency and general conditions of use. They are not an accurate guide to the Safe Working Load. The "Maximum Static Vertical Load" is a more useful measure and gives a more accurate guide to relative strengths.

The British Standards for UK ladders are -

  • BS 2037 - applies to metal ladders (Class 1 and Class 3)
  • BS EN131 - applies to metal and timber ladders
  • BS 1129 - applies to timber ladders

BS EN131 has been recently adopted as a European-wide standard (ladders manufactured in most of Europe will be known simply as EN131). In the UK it has replaced the old Trade Duty (Class 2) of BS 2037.

Is it long enough?

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

Remember also that the "Extended Height" of a ladder is measured along the stiles. This will be reduced when the ladder is placed at the correct working angle against a wall (see below). However, do not over-compensate for this - a ladder with an Extended Height of 9.0m / 30ft will only lose about 30cm / 1ft when positioned at the correct working angle.


  Step 3. Checking ladders


Run this quick check on any ladder you're thinking of buying, hiring or using.

  • General condition sound? (clean & 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? (timber)
  • 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 more likely, replacing.

* Ladders should never be painted as this could hide dangerous defects from view.

A timber ladder can be protected with clear varnish or transparent rot-proofer.

# Stiles are the outside uprights on a ladder.



  Step 4. Putting up ladders


Whenever you are 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!

A. Short Ladders
(Can be raised by 1 person)

Putting up short ladders

  • Place the base against a solid surface.
  • Lift the top of the ladder and "walk down" it, rung by rung and hand by hand, moving in towards the base until the ladder is upright.
  • Rest the top of the ladder against the wall or other firm surface, then lift or slide the base out to its final position.
  • Ladders are designed so that their safest angle of use comes when every 1 measure out from the wall is matched by 4 measure up it.

B. Long Ladders
(need 2 or more people)

  • Lay the ladder on the ground with the base at the spot where it is to stand.
  • Heaviest person: stand at the base and put a foot on the bottom rung.
  • Remaining person/s: start to raise the ladder while heavy partner reaches forward from the base and grasps the stiles (take care not to pull or strain while a back is arched, as this can cause serious injury).
  • Once the ladder is upright, ease the top to rest against the wall or other firm surface.
  • Remember the rule - ONE OUT FOR FOUR UP.

C. Extension Ladders - push up type
(Need two or more people for longer lengths).

  • A short extension (under 2 metres, or 6ft) can be done after the ladder has been raised as for short ladders, described above.
  • For a long extension of over 2 metres:
  • Lay the ladder on the ground on the position to be used, then extend it to the required length.
  • Raise the ladder as for a long ladder described above.
  • If an extension ladder is to be extended, always do so before climbing it, unless it is a Rope-Operated ladder.


  Step 5. Using ladders safely

DO place the base of the ladder on a firm, level, dry surface. If there's 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 surface just to gain extra height.

 DO position the ladder so that the base won't slip outwards. Leaning 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 it (rungs are usually about a third of a metre apart, so its 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 leaning.

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!

  DO secure the bottom and the upper part of the ladder, by tying them (from stiles, not rungs) with rope or straps onto a stable , fixed object. You can tie the base 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 stile onto a fixed object at about the height of the fifth rung from bottom will help to stop any further movement.
If it's 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).


DO 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 a stand-off resting on a firm surface nearby. Bolt or clip this to the top of the ladder before putting up the ladder. 
DO have at feast three rungs extending beyond a roofs edge if you're using a ladder to get yourself up onto 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 and the other on something else.
DO move the ladder to avoid overstretching, and re-secure it whenever necessary, however frustrating that might be!
DO try to keep both hands free to hold the ladder as much as possible while you're 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 on to 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're up a ladder in front of it.
DON’T use a ladder in a 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.
Step 6. 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 from a rung. And 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 timber ladders clear of the ground to avoid contact with damp.

Hang aluminium ladders horizontally from a stile or on a stile - but beware - long and heavy ladders can sag in the middle if not supported sufficiently. This sagging cannot be repaired and renders the ladder unusable!


Timber ladders must be raised off the ground for storage.


For security reasons as well as good maintenance, don't store a ladder on view outdoors where it could be stolen or used in a break-in.


Click to download a two page PDF leaflet "Ladder & Stepladder Safety Guide"

 Stepladder Safety 
 The most important ways to avoid stepladder accidents are -

Choose the correct step for the job - too many Domestic Duty steps are used in Trade and Industrial situations and are simply not robust enough.

Never over-reach.

Position a stepladder front-on to the work. Never work to the side of a stepladder. Working sideways-on accounts for a large number of accidents, where the step topples over sideways because of over-reaching.

On a step with a platform never stand higher than the platform. On a Swingback Step or Builders Step (with no platform, just a series of treads) never stand higher than where you can still hold onto the step with one hand to aid balance and safety.

Always stand the stepladder on a firm, level surface.



Click to download a two page PDF leaflet "Ladder & Stepladder Safety Guide"

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