NJM Blog

How to Use a Ladder Safely

Construction Site Contractor on a Ladder Climbing to Second Floor Keeping Drill Driver in a Hand.

Whether you are a homeowner cleaning the gutters or a small business owner performing elevated work, using a ladder presents certain risks. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 22,170 work–related injuries resulting from ladder use in 2020. A majority of these injuries occurred in the installation, maintenance, and repair and construction industries.

Knowing the basics of ladder safety is an important step toward reducing injuries related to falls. All users should read the ladder’s safety information labels before attempting to climb.

  • Inspect ladders for visible defects on a regular basis. Discard or repair ladders with loose or missing parts, a sideways lean, or uneven feet.

  • When setting up an extendable ladder, extend the side rails to at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface. If you cannot do this, mount a grab rail on the surface.

  • The horizontal distance from the base of a straight ladder to the edge of the landing surface should be at least ¼ the working length of the ladder.

  • Only use ladders on stable and level surfaces. Avoid climbing near power lines.

  • Tie ladders off and install non–slip safety feet to prevent accidental movement while in use.

  • When ascending and descending a ladder, always maintain three points of contact (two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet on the ladder). Face the ladder and use at least one hand to hold on. Do not carry any loads while climbing a ladder.

  • Do not use a ladder in windy or stormy conditions.

  • Wear clean, slip–resistant shoes when using a ladder.

  • Do not stand on top of a stepladder or the top rung of a ladder.

  • Do not use two stepladders and a plank as a form of scaffolding or a work surface.

  • Do not attempt to climb the cross–bracing on the rear section of stepladders; always use the steps.

You can also improve ladder safety by choosing the appropriate equipment and installing safety devices:

  • Plan for safe ladder use before starting work. Ensuring that there is a ladder or stairway at all points of access where there is a break in elevation of 19 inches or more.

  • Acquire ladders that are long enough to extend at least three feet above the upper landing surface. Choose ladders with non–conductive side rails to protect from electrical currents.

  • For fixed ladders of less than 24 feet, provide cages, wells, ladder safety devises, or self–retracting lifelines. For fixed ladders of more than 24 feet, include a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system.

  • When there is other work happening around a ladder that could displace it, secure it in place and erect a barrier around it.

NJM was established more than 100 years ago and has remained committed to providing reliable, cost–effective, and safety–focused insurance. All NJM business policyholders receive access to loss prevention resources to help reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Connect with an agent today to get a quote for NJM Business Insurance.

“Basic Ladder Safety.” American Ladder Institute. americanladderinstitute.org
“Fatal injuries from ladders down in 2020; nonfatal ladder injuries were essentially unchanged” (Apr. 25, 2022). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. bls.gov
NJM Safety Program Guide, available to NJM Business Insurance policyholders from a Loss Prevention Specialist
“Portable Ladder Safety.” OSHA Quick Card. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). osha.gov

The information contained in this article should not be construed as professional advice, and is not intended to replace official sources. Other resources linked from these pages are maintained by independent providers; therefore, NJM cannot guarantee their accuracy.