Don’t Ignore These Basic Rules of Ladder Climbing

Construction worker climbing red metal extension ladder with three points of contact and basic safety tips.

Climbing a ladder is easy, yes? It’s pretty straight-forward. It’s almost instinctual, right? Wrong. Injuries happen on or near ladders because people don’t take the time to practice climbing safety. So many injuries can be prevented by just being mindful and using care, caution, and common sense. Ladders are tools, after all, and many of the basic safety rules that apply to most tools also apply to ladders’ safe use.

Basic Ladder Safety Tips

So, what are some of the most basic safety tips while climbing that might be obvious, but not always followed? Keith Dixon, Director of Marketing and Product Development for COSCO Products, was quick to answer:

“A few basic safety tips are to ensure that all ladder feet are on a firm, level, and non-slippery surface; that it is placed at a 75-degree angle in relation to the ground; and that you maintain three points-of-contact while ascending and descending the ladder.”

Utilize Three Points of Contact

Utilizing three points of contact minimizes the chances of slipping and falling. This means that at all times during ascent, descent, and working, the climber should face the ladder and have two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder rungs, steps, and/or side rails.

Man climbing ladder at cabin porch using three points of contact.

Secure Tools and Avoid Loose Clothing

David Beauchamp, a senior risk management consultant for Builders Mutual, has some other basic tips that may be obvious to some. But you’d be surprised at how often these rules of thumb are ignored. For one, secure any tools before going up the ladder.

“If your drill starts sliding out of your tool belt,” he explains, “you’ll be tempted to grab it. You can’t afford the distraction, and you need your hands for climbing.”

He continues:

“Also avoid wearing loose fitting clothing, jewelry, or anything else that could get snagged while climbing. In addition, be sure to stay centered on the ladder. Placing too much of your body weight at or near the side rails increases the risk that the ladder will shift abruptly.  Some have referred to this as the ‘ Belt Buckle Rule’ – i.e., your belt buckle should never be at or near the side rails.”

Other Ladder Safety Tips

 Beauchamp and Dixon agree on four other basic tips for ladder climbing. Number one, if you feel dizzy or tired, don’t get on a ladder. Two, never use ladders in high wind situations or during storms. Three, only one person at a time should ever be allowed on a ladder unless that ladder is specifically designed for more than one climber. A Trestle Ladder is one such example. And, four, ladders should never be placed in front of closed doors that open toward the ladder.

One final rule of thumb is to read the safety labels on the ladder, as it will provide helpful information specific to the particular type of ladder on which it appears. The climber is not considered qualified or properly trained to use the ladder until he/she is familiar with this information.

For more safety tips and training, visit and

National Ladder Safety Month 5th Anniversary.

National Ladder Safety Month

In addition to promoting safe ladder use in your home and workplace, get involved in National Ladder Safety Month this March – the nationwide initiative focused on increasing awareness of safe ladder use and decreasing ladder accidents. Take advantage of free resources to build awareness and share with your friends or coworkers, including: ladder safety training videos, safety posters, infographics and short videos. Join the online conversation by using #LadderSafetyMonth on your favorite social platforms.

Contributing Author: American Ladder Institute (ALI)

ALI is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved developer of ladder safety Standards. Standards are technical specifications, developed and tested by subject experts, which prescribe rules governing the safety construction, design, testing, care, and use of various types of ladders.

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