Whether a ladder is safe in use has a lot to do with the user! If you are aware of the right way to put a ladder up you’ll be safer when you go up it. Here are a few tips on putting up a ladder properly.
1. Whenever carrying a ladder keep the front end above head height. Turn carefully so you don’t hit anyone nearby
2. Place the ladder flat with the foot against a solid surface (e.g. the wall to be mounted). Lift the top of the ladder work hand over hand, rung-by-rung, towards the base until it’s upright. Rest the top of the ladder against the wall or other firm surface, then lift and slide the base out to a safe position. Putting up longer ladders needs at least two people and the foot should start where it needs to be placed when the ladder is upright.
3. Extension ladders over 2 metres in length should be extended before putting them up and then treated as a long ladder.
4. Place the base of the ladder on a firm, level, dry surface. If there is a time when this isn’t possible – working on grass for instance – tie the feet of the ladder to stakes in the ground to stop it slipping, and place a large flat wooden board underneath to help prevent it sinking.
5. Don’t put a ladder on top of boxes, bricks, barrels or any other unstable surfaces just to gain extra height.
6. Position the ladder so that the base won’t slip outwards. Leaning ladders are designed so that the safest angle of use comes when one measure out from the wall is matched by four measures up it. Rungs are usually about 30cm apart, so it is easy enough to get the distances roughly right. Most new extension ladders now have a mark on the stiles to show the safest angle of lean. Remember the 1:4 ratio!
7. Secure the bottom and the upper part of the ladder by tying them (from stiles not rungs) with rope or straps to a stable fixed object. You can tie these to stakes in the ground or use fixed blocks or sandbags to help guard against the ladder slipping, or buy special stabilisers. A rope or strap tied from a stake onto a fixed object at about the height of the fifth rung from the bottom will help to stop any further movement.
8. If it is impossible for some reason to secure the ladder, get another adult to ‘foot it’ (by standing with one foot on the bottom rung and holding a stile in each hand.)
9. Rest the top of the ladder against a solid surface, never against guttering or other narrow or plastic features.
10. Where a surface is too brittle or weak to support the top of the ladder, use a stay or standoff resting on a firm surface nearby. Bolt or clip this to the top of the ladder before putting the ladder up.
11. Have at least three rungs beyond the roof’s edge if you are using a ladder to get yourself up on to the roof.
12. Make sure that longer extension ladders (over 18 rungs) have an overlap of at least three rungs. Shorter ones (up to 18 rungs) need a minimum overlap of two.
People are injured every year by falling from ladders – and some even lose their lives. Whether someone falls from a ladder or the ladder itself falls because it is being used incorrectly – a little thought can, literally, save lives. These are just a few tips to ensure you don’t take unnecessary risks.