Extension ladder safety: What you need to know

Posted on 7th Dec, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham

Each year, over 1,200 people are seriously injured as a result of a fall from a ladder. One of the most frequent types of ladder used in the trade and industrial setting is the extension ladder, also known as a portable ladder. Easy to transport and use for a variety of jobs, extension ladders usually have two sections that operate in brackets or guides allowing for adjustable lengths.

Step one: Secure the feet

Ensuring you have a stable surface for the ladder to sit on is critical. Clutter should be cleared from the area where the base of the ladder will be situated and the surface should be dry to reduce the risk of the ladder slipping.

On soft surfaces, such as soil and grass, the ladder spurs should be flipped so they butt into the ground. On solid surfaces, such as decking, a cleat may be screwed into the ground surface, behind the ladder’s feet, to prevent the ladder from slipping backwards. Another way to secure a ladder on regular surfaces, such as tarmac, is to stabilise it by rope tying both ladder legs to an object anchored at, or near, the base of the wall.

Step two: Securing the top of the ladder

With the ladder secure at the base, the next step is to secure the ladder both at the top and across window spans to increase stability. Ties are particularly important if the ladder will be used to access a scaffolding platform or a roof.

As a general rule, a ladder shouldn’t rest against weak surfaces such as glazing or plastic guttering. Instead, a ladder should be properly secured by tying it to a suitable point, such as a scaffolding post, chimney, or window frame, making sure both stiles are tied using ropes or ladder ties. Where this is not practical, securing the ladder with an effective ladder stability device is recommended.

Step three: Proceed with caution


As with any ladder, awareness of health and safety while working from a height is key. Even if you’ve set up your extension ladder safely, it’s still important to follow these safety protocols:


  • Maintain three points of contact at all times, two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand, even when climbing and descending a ladder.


  • Face the ladder when climbing up or descending.


  • Keep the body inside the side rails and never overreach.


  • Use extra care when getting on or off the ladder at the top or bottom. Avoid tipping the ladder over sideways or causing the ladder base to slide out.


  • Carry tools in a tool belt or raise tools up using a hand line. Never carry tools in your hands while climbing up/down a ladder, or rest the tools on the rungs.


  • Extend the top of the ladder three feet above the landing.

If you would like to refresh you knowledge of working safely from a height, or working safely from ladders, why not book on to one of our ladder inspection safety training courses for the New Year? We have a wide variety of courses available, some lasting just half a day. To explore our offerings for yourself, head over to our safety training website.

Do you have any other tips for working safely from an extension ladder? If so, leave your advice below, or tweet your top tips to us @BrownsLadders

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