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The Right Way to Set Up and Climb a Ladder

Simple guidelines minimize the risk of serious injury

Because ladders are the most mobile and temporary devices for working above the ground, it's easy to be lax about their safe use. Serious, debilitating injuries often result from falls of 6 ft. or less. Take the time to set up a ladder properly, as explained in the list and shown in the drawing.

  • Ladders should be set up at a 4:1 angle (1 ft. out from the base for every 4 ft. of rise).
  • To prevent them from slipping or falling over, ladders should be secured either at the top or at the bottom.
  • When ladders are used to climb onto or off of an upper surface, they must extend at least 3 ft. above the surface.
  • When climbing or working on a ladder, the worker should face the ladder and maintain three points of contact with the ladder.
  • Do not set up ladders in high-traffic areas
More Info

The base of this ladder is securely braced to prevent slipping. The worker maintains three points of contact while climbing the ladder and has plenty of extension above the roof surface to enable him to get on and off the roof easily .

Tom O'Brien is associate editor at Fine Homebuilding.

Drawing: Rick Daskam

From Fine Homebuilding130 , pp. 89 April 1, 2000