A ladder is one of your most useful tools, but it’s dangerous when used incorrectly

By Joe Perulero
I have some bad memories of my own ladder mishaps, and also the accidents I have witnessed when I was learning my trade.

Some of these mishaps were just plain dumb, like using a ladder without checking its condition before use, which often resulted in people falling and injuring themselves, usually because the ladder had broken feet or rungs.

Another common mistake people make when using an extension ladder is the angle at which they place the ladder against a wall. When the base is too close to the wall – or too far away – the result can be the ladder slipping and the person falling.

The rule for ladder placement is the ‘4 to 1 rule’; for every 4 metres of height that the tip of the ladder reaches, the base of the ladder needs to be 1 metre away from the wall.

Other poor practices on a ladder include; standing on the top rung of any ladder; and using aluminium ladders to work on electrical items.

Electricians know they need to use a non-conducting fiberglass ladder when carrying out electrical work. And lacking the correct size of fiberglass ladder is not an excuse to use a metal ladder for electrical work.

You should always select a ladder that is fit for the task, and ensure you can maintain three points of contact at all times when you’re on the ladder. Platform ladders can help in this regard.

Ladders and working at height are common causes of death and injury for Australian workers. According to Safe Work Australia, between 2003 and 2015, 359 workers were killed following a fall from a height. Half of the falls involved falling three metres or less and the greatest number of fatalities involved falling from roofs (59) followed by ladders, (54).

Ladders are a great tool, and also a hazard if used incorrectly. Take Five on your Tools and be safe on ladders.

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