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Construction Safety Association of Ontario

Summary Statement

Describes the most common fall hazards and rules to prevent falls from ladders.
Spring 2005

Ladders require a special approach to safety.

When you think about it, preventing falls from ladders is different from preventing falls through floor openings, for instance, or from roof edges.

Fall-arrest equipment such as harnesses and fall prevention equipment such as guardrails generally won’t protect people climbing up and down ladders.

The most common fall hazards in residential and commercial construction involve ladders. Falls result when ladders are

  • not tied off at the top
  • in poor condition
  • used the wrong way.
A few simple rules can prevent most falls from ladders.
  • Make sure the ladder is set up on a firm level surface.
  • Always face the ladder when you’re climbing up or down.
  • Maintain three-point contact when climbing up and down a ladder or working from it. Three-point contact means one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot on the ladder at all times. Your chances of falling will be significantly reduced if you maintain three-point contact.
  • Don’t carry anything in your hands. Carry your tools in a belt or pouch. Use a rope to lift and lower equipment and material.
  • Secure the ladder at top and bottom. Consider using ladder stabilizing attachments at the base and top.
  • Never over-reach to get at something off to one side. Re-position the ladder instead.
  • Where possible, use a scaffold or elevating work platform instead of a ladder.
  • With extension ladders, make sure the ladder is
    • free of damage to rungs, siderails, and hardware
    • set up so that the base is level and the bottom can’t slip
    • sloped between 1:3 and 1:4
    • tall enough to extend at least 90 cm (3 feet) above the landing area at the top
    • secured at the top if it will be a regular means of access.
  • With step ladders, make sure the ladder is
    • free of damage (no cracks in rungs or siderails, no excessive play in hinges)
    • set up with legs fully extended and spreader arms locked
    • tall enough to let you work while keeping your waist below the top of the ladder.