Ladder Safety and the 4-to-1 Rule

I am not sure about you but I don’t really have that many reasons to climb a ladder around my property. If you also only need a ladder on a few occasions, it is easy to forget just how dangerous your ladder actually is if you do not set it up correctly.

How hard can it be, right? You open it up, extend it to the correct length and climb it. Wrong? Your ladder must be angled properly for the distance that you need to climb. An easy way of remembering the correct distance is to use the 4-to-1 rule. With this, for every four feet of height you have to climb, move the base one foot away from the wall.

Ladders account for around 40% of falls from height accidents investigated by the Health & Safety Executive in workplaces in the UK each year. Figures show that around 48,000 people a year in the UK now attend hospital Accident and Emergency departments following a ladder accident in and around the home.

Ladder Safety

Inspect the ladder

  • Check the rails are strong and undamaged
  • Check the rungs and steps are solid, undamaged and free of oil, grease and dirt
  • All fittings should be tight
  • Make sure spreaders and other locking devices are in place
  • Make sure that the non-skid safety feet are in place
  • There should be no structural defects
  • All support braces should be intact

Set up the ladder properly

  • Make sure that the surface is free of any hazards, slip-free and level
  • Use the 4-to-1 rule, placing the ladder base 1/4 the height of the ladder from the wall when using an extension ladder. For example, if your ladder is 8 feet tall, the base should be 2 feet from the wall.
  • A straight or extension ladder should extend 3 feet beyond the level it is being used to reach when stepping off. For example, if you are using a ladder to access a roof, your ladder should extend three feet higher than the roof.
  • Secure or tie the extension ladder to prevent slippage. If at all possible, have a second person hold the bottom of the ladder

Use the ladder safely

  • Face the ladder
  • Use both hands
  • Wipe off any dirt and grease from your hands and shoes
  • Never allow more than one person on a ladder
  • Use carriers and tool belts to carry objects up a ladder
  • Do not lean out from the ladder
  • Never shift the ladder while your weight is on it
  • See manufacturer label for maximum rung height to work safely from
  • If you are afraid of heights, don’t climb a ladder
  • Maintain 3-point contact at all times: one foot and two hands, or two feet and one hand on the ladder


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