Ladder safety checklist and tips
While professional help for bigger jobs is recommended, you may find yourself doing the odd DIY project at home. Follow these rules to keep yourself as safe as possible when using a ladder.
Use the right ladder for the job
Having the right ladder for the job is paramount. Any ladder you use should be labelled with its Australian Standard AS/NZS 1892 approval. Check that the ladder is in good working order before you use it, with no broken, damaged or missing parts. Don't use a rusty ladder, and clean off any grease or other slippery materials from the steps.
"The ladder should have working safety locks and non-slip feet," Davies says. "It also needs to be the right height and weight rating for the job you are using it for. If you can only reach by standing on the top rung, then the ladder is too short for the job and you should stop. Remember that the weight rating includes any tools and supplies you're carrying."
Get someone to help you
"It is always safer to have someone else with you to hold and support the ladder," says Davies. Another set of eyes on the task can help spot potential hazards, help out if the position of the ladder needs to change, or provide immediate first aid in case of an accident.
Position your ladder correctly
Ladder positioning is also important. Always set up your ladder on a firm, level surface that isn't wet or slippery. "Ensure that you can set your ladder up somewhere that won’t be knocked by doors or windows, but that is also close enough to your work area that you won’t be reaching or leaning," Davies advises. "It can be really tempting to reach out to the side that extra bit with the paint brush rather than get down and move your ladder, but this can be extremely dangerous."
If you're using an extension ladder, ensure that it extends at least one metre over the top of the surface it rests against and make sure to secure it at the top. You should also follow the 1:4 rule: for every 4 metres of ladder height, the ladder base should be positioned 1 metre away from the structure.
Check the weather
The weather is also a major factor when it comes to ladder safety. "Take the time to assess your job and the environment when working at height outside," Davies says. "Don't work if it’s too hot, wet or windy, and make sure you are wearing appropriate non-slip footwear." Extremely hot temperatures could make you feel faint or dizzy, causing you to lose your balance at height. Wet or windy conditions could cause your ladder to slip or fall.
Climb the ladder appropriately
When climbing a ladder, wear enclosed and slip-resistant shoes. Do not wear thongs and sandals, because they do not provide the grip and support that you need. Make sure that your shoelaces are securely tied, and that your pant legs don't extend underneath your shoes.
When climbing, face the ladder and stay in the centre of the rails. Maintain three points of contact at all times by holding the ladder with both hands as you climb and carrying any tools in a toolbelt.
On a step ladder, only climb to the second rung from the top and never stand on the pail shelf, spreaders or back section.
On an extension ladder, only climb to the third rung from the top. Never climb above the point where the ladder touches the wall or vertical support.