Safe Use of Extension Ladders: What You Need To Know

Extension ladders are frequently used by workers and unfortunately the cause of permanent injuries or worse. Learning proper ladder use can help eliminate and substantially reduce accidents or fatalities. Planning ahead of the job, providing safe equipment, and training workers how to use extension ladders safely are fairly easy steps to prevent any falls in the workplace, or even when using an extension ladder at home.

An extension ladder is a portable ladder that typically has two sections that operate in brackets or guides, and have adjustable lengths. These are not self-supporting ladders, and require a stable structure that can bear the weight of an intended load.

Proper Planning

Planning ahead can help avoid accidents and be aware of potential hazards. There are a few questions to ask prior to using an extension ladder, like how high you intend on going, how much you weigh, what hazards are nearby, and how heavy of a load you’ll need to carry up the ladder. A visual inspection prior to using the ladder is necessary to find any faulty parts, like missing rungs, bolts, screws, and checking for any loose components. If there are any damaged parts of the ladder, make sure to mark it defective to deter anyone from using it.

Choosing the Right Extension Ladder for the Job

You want to use a ladder that can sustain at least four times the maximum intended load, except for an extra-heavy duty type 1A metal or plastic ladder that can sustain 3.3 times the max intended load. It is important to always follow manufacturer’s instructions and labels that are on the ladder. When determining the correct ladder, you will need to consider the weight of your load, as well as your own weight. Do not exceed the load rating, and also include the weight of tools and materials.

Ladder duty ratings (expected load capacities) fall into five categories:

IAA – special duty, rugged use, up to 375 lbs.

IA – extra duty, industrial use, up to 300 lbs.

I – heavy duty, industrial use, up to 250 lbs.

II – medium duty, commercial use, up to 225 lbs. 

III – light duty, household use, up to 200 lbs.

Setting Up Your Ladder

If access to the ladder is obstructed, you can secure the top of the ladder to a rigid unmoving support, and add a grasping device to allow safe access. After making sure the area around you is clear of any materials or tools, you will set the ladder at a proper angle. When a ladder is leaning against a wall, the bottom part of the ladder should be one quarter of the ladder’s working length away from the wall. When accessing the intended work surface, extend the top of the ladder three feet above that surface and secure the ladder at the top.

Before starting any work, make sure the area has no potential hazards. Overhead power lines should be avoided, and tools and ladders should be at least 10 feet from a power line. Ladders should have non conductive side rails if being used where the ladder or a worker could contact any exposed electrical equipment.

To secure the base of the ladder, make sure the feet are unable to slip backwards. When on soft ground, use the spurs on the ladder shoes to poke into the ground. When working on hard surfaces, make sure there is no dirt or debris near the ladder feet that could cause the ladder to slip. If it feels as though there is still potential slippage, tie ropes to both ladder legs beneath the lowest rung, tying the other end of the ropes to an anchored object near the base of the wall.

Safe Ladder Use

Using your ladder after it has safely been established:

  • Maintain two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet, in contact at all times when on the ladder
  • Make sure the ladder is locked into place before ascending
  • Check the ladder’s stability before placing your entire weight on it
  • Always face the ladder when climbing or descending 
  • Keep your body inside the side rails as much as possible
  • Be extra careful towards the top and bottom of the ladder, avoid tipping the ladder sideways, or causing the base to slide out from the bottom
  • Carry all tools in your tool belt or vest, and raise the tools using a hand line if you are unable to safely fit them upon yourself, never carry anything in your hands when climbing up or down a ladder
  • Extend the top of the ladder three feet above the landing
  • Keep your ladder away from any slippery materials at the base or landing
  • Do not adjust or move the ladder with someone on it

Extension Ladder Rentals with Elephant Construction Services 

If you are a company in need of equipment, a contractor needing high-quality tools, or a DIY enthusiast with aspirations of your own remodel, you can trust the personalized service and rentals available at Elephant Construction Solutions in the Rio Grande Valley.
Contact us today at Elephant Construction Solutions to get a free quote to rent any power tools or machinery you require for your next job or project. Whether you’re in need of something as simple as a ladder, to something as important as scaffolding, or as powerful as a power generator, we have the best in high quality products you are looking for.


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