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Almost every home in the United States has one, and chances are you have used one either at work or your home. From changing a lightbulb to getting on top of a roof, ladders are a common piece of equipment used in almost every home or building and appear to be harmless — and yet according to Injury Facts, thousands of people are killed due to falls from a ladder or scaffolding work. In fact, falls are the second leading cause of death next to highway crashes.

Understanding the different types of ladders, as well as safe ladder practices, are key to preventing falls and other potential injuries.

Helpful Ladder Tips

  • Avoid electrical hazards!
  • Always inspect the ladder prior to using it.
  • Always maintain 3-points of contact on the ladder when climbing.
  • Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps, or feet.
  • Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
  • Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
  • Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface.
  • Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single, or extension ladder.
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
  • Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
  • Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder.

According to National Ladder Safety Month, every year over 100 people die in ladder-related accidents, and thousands suffer disabling injuries. While some of these dos and don’ts may seem obvious, it’s important to keep things in perspective.